Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A taste that is characteristic of monosodium glutamate and is associated with meats and other high-protein foods. It is sometimes considered to be a fifth basic taste along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. One of the five basic tastes, the savory taste of foods such as seaweed, cured fish, aged cheeses and meats
  • n. The taste of flavor enhancers added to food to accentuate savoriness, notably monosodium glutamate

Etymologies

Japanese.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Japanese 旨味, うまみ (umami), which describes the flavour. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The word umami is Japanese and can mean yummy or delicious and has been described in English as meatiness, relish or savouriness.

    Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Five Courses, Five Primary Tastes

  • Now, umami is Japanese for-it's the fifth flavor, after sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

    Democracy Now!

  • Miso is salty but also complex and meaty, a unique flavor best described by the Japanese term umami.

    The City Cook

  • Mr. Vongerichten creates intense umami-tasting dishes, which he dubs umami "bombs," at his various restaurants.

    A New Taste Sensation

  • Tomatoes have good umami - that's the Japanese word that doesn't have a direct translation, but means the fifth taste, a taste we all know but can't quite describe, or couldn't until we discovered the word umami.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • Food companies describe some of their efforts as adding "umami," a Japanese word that, roughly translated, means "good flavor."

    A Taste for Hotter, Mintier, Fruitier

  • I used to think that the distinct flavour of salami was due to spices, but when I had my first piece of bundnerfleisch, it so reminded me of salami in its savouriness, at that moment I realized cured, dried meat has a flavour all its own, completely unlike fresh meat, best described by the Japanese word umami, which means savoury or meaty, so it should come as no surprise that dried meat has umami in spades.

    Archive 2007-07-01

  • So for you, the Red Dragon Roll – my favorite combination of tuna and avocado, with the added coolness of the cucumber to counteract the burning spice of the Sriracha sauce, and the crunchy combination of nutty sesame seeds, salty tobiko, and added umami from the fried onions on top.

    Red Dragon Roll - Sushi Day - Sushiday.com

  • Then in 2000, scientists in Miami found the taste receptor for umami, which is stimulated by glutamate, giving the idea of umami (as a distinct taste) scientific credence.

    Rolling Sushi With Nobu

  • But, I do recall picking up what I called umami in a Bart Park Merlot 2005.

    The Fifth Taste: A Wine with Umami

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Noob No-Scroll Syndrome :-(

    February 14, 2010

  • Nattering Nabob Security Service?

    February 14, 2010

  • National Nutrition Surveillance Survey?

    February 14, 2010

  • Navy Navigation Satellite System?
    Natural Necessity Surf Shop?

    February 14, 2010

  • Nordic Network for Security Studies?

    February 14, 2010

  • Arrgh! NNSS!

    February 13, 2010

  • Often described as savory.

    February 13, 2010

  • There are five known fundamental tastes in the human palate: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Umami is the proteiny, full-bodied taste of chicken soup, or cured meat, or fish stock, or aged cheese, or mother's milk, or soy sauce, or mushrooms, or seaweed, or cooked tomato. "Umami adds body," Gary Beauchamp, who heads the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, says. "If you add it to a soup, it makes the soup seem like it's thicker—it gives it sensory heft. It turns a soup from salt water into a food."
    -Malcom Gladwell
    The Ketchup Conundrum
    http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_09_06_a_ketchup.html

    November 20, 2008

  • C'mon, words are tastier than food any day.

    September 30, 2008

  • Creamed corn has no umami.

    September 29, 2008

  • From what I understand, simply put umami is "mouth feel", or the unctious wonderful rich feeling some foods have that is immediately satisfying when the food enters into the palate

    September 29, 2008

  • Eranu!

    August 29, 2008

  • The fifth taste. It's usually said that the human tongue can detect only four basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty, and that all tastes are combinations of these. Many specialists now believe that taste is actually more complicated than this, with the taste buds being helped along by sense of smell, by the feel of substances in the mouth and even by the noise that food makes when we chew it.

    In recent years some workers have added a fifth taste, umami, to the other four, though western food scientists are divided about whether it really exists or not. It has been suggested that the taste is triggered by compounds of some amino acids, such as glutamates or aspartates, especially the flavour-enhancing substance monosodium glutamate.

    Both the word and the concept are Japanese, and in Japan are of some antiquity. Umami is hard to translate, to judge by the number of English words that have been suggested as equivalents, such as savoury, essence, pungent, deliciousness, and meaty. Itís sometimes associated with a feeling of perfect quality in a taste, or of some special emotional circumstance in which a taste is experienced. It is also said to involve all the senses, not just that of taste. There's more than a suggestion of a spiritual or mystical quality about the word.

    (from World Wide Words)

    May 22, 2008

  • Stick to Hepburn romanisation, though, or you'll confuse people no end.

    November 6, 2007

  • Alternate spelling: umame.

    November 6, 2007

  • "Recently recognized, umami detects 'savoury' or 'meaty' sensations, and is stimulated by condiments like soy sauce, or by foods which contain glutamate compounds like MSG." --Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany

    August 20, 2007

  • “Well, sometimes I feel like I want my popcorn to have just a little more umami — like when you have the urge to put Parmesan on it, or something to make it a little more complex." ~K. said here

  • .

    April 6, 2007