Over the last decade, “umami” has finally made its way into the North American food lexicon. This is in part due to the rise in popularity of Japanese food and partly because some of the world’s most popular chefs have promoted its importance in the media.
Umami, a Japanese loanword, is one of the five basic tastes, together with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It can be translated from Japanese to English as “pleasant savory taste.”
The human tongue has receptors for L-glutamate, which is the source of umami flavor. Glutamate is found in most living things, but when they die, when organic matter breaks down, the glutamate molecule breaks apart. This can occur on a stove when you cook meat, over time when you age Parmesan cheese, by fermentation as in soy sauce or under the sun as a tomato ripens. When glutamate becomes L-glutamate, that’s when things get delicious.
The sun is finally shining after a long winter here on Prince Edward Island, and it’s time to BBQ over live coals for the first time this year. Here’s an easy recipe featuring umami rich ingredients like soy sauce, fish sauce, shitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, and nori.
Umami BBQ Recipe
250 ml soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 Tablespoons Xiaoshing wine
250 ml orange marmalade
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 Tablespoon dried shitake mushroom powder
1 Tablespoon yellow miso
1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce
3 Tablespoons furikake
1 Tablespoon ketchup
Blend all ingredients in blender until well combined.
Marinate meat, fish, tofu, or vegetables at room temperature for one hour, then grill over live coals.
In the meantime, add remaining marinade to saucepan, cook until it thickens slightly, then use as a glaze.