Umami: Get in My Mouth!

Umami: Get in My Mouth!

We’re introducing an exciting new Asian-inspired salad to showcase this incredible fifth taste.

We all learned the four basic tastes in grade school (sweet, salty, sour and bitter), but what about the taste we didn’t learn? That would be umami. Sometimes described as “earthy” or “savory,” this fundamental flavor’s very existence was debated as recently as 2002. And since we’ve designed our new Chinese Citrus Cashew Salad with Chicken to be an umami explosion, we’re giving you the full story on this trendy taste.

What’s the science?

Intrigued by a traditional, umami-rich Japanese soup called dashi, Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda set out to discover the source of this delicious taste that was neither sweet, salty, sour nor bitter, and in 1908, he discovered the answer: It was glutamate! An amino acid commonly found in meats, dairy and certain vegetables, glutamate supplies the savory flavor we taste in perfectly browned meats or deliciously ripe tomatoes. Ikeda named this taste “umami,” a play on the Japanese word for “yummy.” But while umami might have been discovered in the early 1900s, it was almost a century before studies confirmed that our tongues have receptors to taste it, finally giving umami its moment of glory.

What’s the history?

Meanwhile, in France…gourmet food was about to undergo a renaissance through the power of umami. During the early 1900s, haute cuisine focused on appearance rather than flavor, featuring buffets of gorgeous—but bland and cold—foods, as well as intricate food sculptures that weren’t actually edible (tower of lard, anyone?). But with Auguste Escoffier’s invention of umami-rich veal stock, all of that changed. His rich, savory soups and sauces were unlike anything people had tasted before, and they inspired change: Fresh ingredients and dishes served hot to enhance flavor were suddenly in. That’s the power of umami.

What’s the big deal?

Bite into our Chinese Citrus Cashew Salad with Chicken, and we think you’ll understand. We combined two famously rich sources of umami—miso paste and soy—to create our well-rounded Soy-Miso Lime Dressing, then kicked it up with ginger for warmth and gentle spice. Tossed with our deliciously clean salad of romaine, a crunchy napa cabbage blend, chicken raised without antibiotics, roasted cashews, diced cucumbers, and fresh pineapple and cilantro, all topped off with a drizzle of hoisin sauce, it’s a savory-sweet revelation that would make Ikeda and Escoffier proud. But just like the umami that inspired it, you’ll have to taste it to believe.