Umami. It’s the savory flavor that’s savored around the world, from Asia to Europe to the United States. And for a long time!: foods that are ripe with umami goodness have been used for ages in the cuisines of many countries.
According to the Umami Information Center, “There are a great variety of traditional seasonings and foods in the world. Most of them are fermented, dried, or salted for the purpose of long preservation. In this process, glutamate and other umami substances increase and add richness to the dish.”
Chefs around the world are showcasing umami’s benefits. In Thailand, the popular umami-rich ingredient is fish sauce. In Japan, it’s miso and soy sauce. In Italy, it’s Parmesan and anchovies. In Spain, it’s cured meats. In Australia, it’s vegemite. In Korea, it’s kimchi. In the U.S., umami is well-recognized in tomatoes, cheese, and mushrooms (to mention just a few foods).
Worldwide Love of Umami
To illustrate how widespread the love of umami is, this graphic shows where and how umami-rich foods are used worldwide:
For the purpose of this blog, let’s take a look at two among the many regions where umami is an important culinary consideration.
Great Britain: We’ve previously highlighted two restaurants in London – Umami and The Hawksmoor – the latter of which serves a Longhorn beef burger specially constructed, not just with the umami taste in mind – but around it. But as its executive chef Richard Turner points out: “We build our entire menu on it.”
Another article from a London newspaper has commented, “A gourmet paradox, umami is both ubiquitous and elusive, present but often unrecognised. It is that extra mouthful-ness that makes us go “mmmmm” – to taste umami is to savour the savoury long after the morsel itself has disappeared.”
Italy: In The Italian Dish blog, the blogger writes: “It’s something every Italian nonna knows about when it comes to adding flavor to dishes. And if you don’t know what umami is, you will. It’s one of the hottest subjects in the cooking world right now.” The blogger offers another secret about umami: “It’s why Italian cooks often add an anchovy in the beginning when cooking a sauce. Even if you don’t like the taste of anchovies, you will never know it is there. It completely dissolves but it adds a depth of flavor you would not have otherwise.”
A Roundup of Umami Recipes from Around the World
Discover the wonder of umami by cooking up a few of these delicious umami recipes, bringing the world of umami into your kitchen!:
- 6-8 pieces boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- Garlic salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. MSG
- 2 large eggs
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 3 Tbsp. ketchup
- 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
- 1 - 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 - 3 tsp. hot pepper sauce to taste
- In a medium bowl, mix flour, garlic salt, pepper and MSG. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat eggs well; set aside.
- Spread panko crumbs on large plate or flat dish; set aside.
- To prepare the chicken, first dredge the thighs in flour mixture to evenly coat. After coated, dip each thigh in the egg wash, then coat with panko bread crumbs, making sure all of the chicken is covered with crumbs.
- Heat 1/2 inch oil in a large fry pan on medium heat. Carefully place coated chicken in heated oil, turn when panko turns a golden brown (about 5-7 minutes per side). Note: Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
- After chicken is cooked, drain on paper towels and season with salt (if desired) before serving.
- For dipping sauce, mix together the ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce.
Recipe courtesy of Justapinch.com.
Photo credit: Flickr user, Alpha
- 1 to 1 ½ cups shredded crab or imitation crab meat packed
- 1 pkg won ton wrappers 50 – 60 wontons
- 16 oz softened cream cheese
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 3 green onions white and very pale green parts only, sliced thin. Use the green parts to garnish
- 1 clove garlic minced fine
- 1 tsp ginger minced fine
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp MSG monosodium glutamate
- Bowl of cool water
- Peanut oil for frying
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar and MSG until smooth and well-combined.
- Thoroughly fold in the crab meat and green onions to the cheese mix.
Form the crab rangoon
- Place the small bowl of cool water on your work surface.
- Place a wonton wrapper on your work surface. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of the cheese and crab mix in the center of the wonton wrapper (the proper amount depends on the size you bought).
- Take your finger and dip it in to the water. Run your finger on the outside edge of the wonton square. Then gently fold it over to form a triangle shape. Seal the edges firmly so they don't open during frying. You will find that as you seal one edge, the other may raise a bit, that's okay.
- Place each finished crab rangoon on a large sheet of wax or parchment paper. Cover with a kitchen towel to keep moist while you make the others.
Frying crab rangoon
- Place a pan suitable for deep frying over medium-high heat. Immediately pour the peanut oil to a depth of about 2". Heat to 350°F.
- Cook the crab rangoon in the hot oil (turning once) in small batches. They cook quickly. When finished frying, remove them with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on a rack or paper towels.
Cook them just a shade or two lighter than "golden brown." They seem to darken more a few moments after you remove them from the oil. You'll know if you fry them too long because the cheese and crab mixture will start to seep out from the seams.
Recipe courtesy of Chop Onions, Boil Water Blog
Teriyaki-Style Noodles with Tofu
- 5 ounces soba Japanese buckwheat noodles
- 2 cups mixed vegetables asparagus tips, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, or green beans
- ⅓ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 ¼ cups vegetable broth
- 4 Tbsp. rice wine or dry sherry sake or mirin
- 10 ounces firm light tofu diced
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 1 fresh red chili seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro chopped
- 1 large garlic clove crushed
- ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles according to package instructions, or until al dente, about 6 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cut all of the mixed vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Add to the simmering pasta for the final 3-4 minutes of cooking.
- Drain the pasta and vegetables in a large colander. Place all remaining ingredients in the empty saucepan and return it to the heat. Heat until simmering, then reduce to low. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pan, and cook very briefly until they are reheated.
- Serve in deep soup bowls, with a spoon to drink the broth and a fork or chopsticks for picking up the solid ingredients.
Recipe Variation: Replace the tofu with 8 ounces peeled, cooked shrimp or diced, cooked chicken or turkey (without the skin).
Recipe courtesy of Reader’s Digest
Coq au Vin Noveau
Thanks to the Umami Information Center for sharing this delicious recipe and photo.
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 oz. lean smoked ham diced medium
- 8 skinless chicken thighs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose plain flour
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 1 cup cremini or button mushroom slices 1/4-inch thick (1/3 to 1/2 lb.)
- 1 cup fruity white wine such as sauvignon blanc
- 1 14-oz. can low-fat chicken broth
- 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 2 stalks celery sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
- Choose a heavy Dutch oven or skillet with a tight-fitting cover, large enough to fit the chicken in no more than two layers plus the vegetables. In this pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the ham and saute until browned all over. Remove and reserve the ham, leaving as much of the oil in the pan as you can.
- Liberally season the pieces of chicken with salt and pepper and dredge them in the flour. Add the remaining oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, sear the pieces of chicken thoroughly on all sides until well browned. Take care not to scorch the flour coating, but do let it get brown. Do this in batches. Reserve the chicken with the ham.
- Return pan to the burner and set to medium. Add the onion, garlic, shallots, and mushrooms, and saute for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until tender and fragrant. Add the wine, chicken broth, carrots, celery, and thyme, and let the pan come to a boil. Add the reserved chicken and ham. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 45 to 50 minutes, until the chicken is very tender and the sauce has thickened from the flour. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Arrange chicken pieces and vegetables on a warmed platter, and cover with the sauce. Serve with rice, noodles or roasted potatoes.
Recipe courtesy of Umamiinfo.com
Provencal Style Pork Stew in Tomato Sauce
- 3/4 lb. shoulder of roast pork 12-14 oz.
- 1 15-16 oz. can tomatoes
- 2 onions
- ½ carrot
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup white wine
- Some salt and pepper to season
- Some parsley chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Seasoning for Pork:
- Some salt and pepper
- ¼ tsp. dried thyme
Seasoning for Sauce:
- Some salt and pepper
- ¼ tsp. dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Rub the salt, pepper and dried thyme into the pork.
- Slice the tomatoes into large chunks keeping the juice for later use. Cut the onions in half and slice. Slice the carrots and finely chop the garlic.
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pot and, turning frequently, fry both sides of the pork until golden brown.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the pork, then add the garlic, onions and carrots respectively. Fry quickly before adding the wine, tomatoes with juice and all seasonings for the sauce. Cover with a lid and then stew for 1 hour on low heat. Should the stew be too thin, remove the lid and boil for a while until the excess has evaporated.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and some lemon juice if desired.
- Slice the pork into strips that are ½ to 1 inch wide and, together with the sauce, place on a dish and garnish with parsley.
Try this dish together with buttered rice by mixing 1 Tbsp. of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper with the equivalent of 3 bowls of hot rice.
Recipe courtesy of Umamiinfo.com
Ricotta and Asparagus Quiche
For brunch lovers!: An easy and scrumptious vegetarian quiche recipe, with asparagus and ricotta cheese.
For the Crust (Pastry)
- 1 1/3 cups flour all-purpose
- 11 Tbsp. butter softened (about 2/3 cup)
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup water
For the Custard (Filling)
- 1 lb. green asparagus
- 1 3/4 cup ricotta (14 oz.)
- 3 eggs
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup Parmesan grated
- pepper (freshly ground) to taste
- nutmeg to taste
- fat as needed to grease the dish
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine the flour, butter, egg and egg yolk, 1/2 cup water, oil and a little salt and work to a smooth dough.
- Form into a ball, wrap in foil or plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.
- Wash the asparagus, peel the lower third and cut off the ends.
- Either leave whole or cut into pieces.
Cook the asparagus in boiling salted, water for about 5 minutes, then drain, refresh in cold water and drain thoroughly.
- For the filling, mix together the ricotta, eggs and grated Parmesan cheese and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Roll out the pastry to fit the dish.
- Grease the dish and line with the pastry.
Arrange the asparagus attractively in the lined dish, then spread the ricotta mixture (filling) on top.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, let cool then serve.
Recipe courtesy of FineDiningLovers.com
Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad)
Print this out and impress everyone with your worldly cooking skills. Som Tum done right!
- 10 oz. green papaya
- 5 cloves garlic chopped
- 4-6 bird’s eye chilies
- 4 cherry tomatoes halved
- 3 oz. long beans cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 - 4 Tbsp. roasted peanuts
- 2 Tbsp. dried shrimp optional
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp. palm sugar grated if purchased as a whole piece (can substitute sugar)
- 3 Tbsp. lime juice
- To garnish: 1 cup shredded red cabbage, fresh bean sprouts, and ½ cup long beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Peel papaya. Cut flesh into a fine julienne. Discard seeds. Reserve.
With a mortar and pestle, pound chilies and garlic together to form a chunky paste.
Add peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, and beans. Mix to incorporate.
Add fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime juice.
- Add shredded papaya, fold it in.
- Put on a serving platter and garnish with red cabbage, fresh bean sprouts and long beans.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Chris Koetke
Note: For vegetarian som tum, omit the dried shrimp and substitute soy sauce for fish sauce.
And here’s a few umami recipe favorites from Bon Appétit:
- Pasta with Pancetta and Miso
- Shaved Asparagus with Parmesan Vinaigrette
- Baked Flounder with Tomatoes and Basil
- Parmesan Chicken Caesar with Roasted Romaine
Want to learn more about umami? We certainly will be blogging again about foods from around the world – so make sure you’ve subscribed to MSGdish by using the Subscribe feature on the homepage, and follow us on Twitter @MSGdish.
In addition, you can check out this video featuring Chef Chris Koetke about umami-rich foods, and how to experiment with the umami flavor in your cooking.