Umami Lecture in London
In December, 2013, "Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese" was designated as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. Umami, which is an important element of the Japanese cuisine and gives satisfaction to low fat and low calorie foods, has now become a common international word "UMAMI". Famous chefs throughout the world are becoming interested on umami.
Moved by their desire to learn the right information about umami, London based Japanese chefs requested the Umami Information Center to organize a lecture. Our objectives were
- To help participants to differentiate umami from deliciousness, and glutamic acid from monosodium glutamate (MSG).
- To teach the precise characteristics of umami taste through tasting - long lasting, longer than other basic taste, wide sensation across the tongue, and its mouth-watering effect.
We prepared various umami-rich ingredients as examples of these effects, such as cherry tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano (aged for 48 months), Gouda cheese (aged for 36 months). We also served two types of dashi: one of kombu and another with dried bonito to experience the synergistic effect of glutamate of kombu dashi and inosinate of dried bonito dashi. In addition, we compared the taste of two vegetable consomme samples, one with and another without MSG. Participants could perceive that MSG accentuated all other tastes. By tasting green tea, all could identify umami taste in green tea.
Dr. Ninomiya also explained how foreign chefs and journalists describe umami in English, which served as a pattern for participants when trying to talk about umami with colleagues and customers. All participants eagerly listened to the lecture, taking notes and nodding. Afterwards they commented "I could understand the difference between umami and deliciousness (in Japanese, both are called umami)" and they said "I learned wrongly that MSG is." We are planning to organize a similar lecture in English for non- Japanese employees of Japanese restaurants in London for the near future.
The Umami Information Center will continue to promote umami lectures to deliver correct and updated information about umami taste.