A Fusion of Three Trends Delivers Umami, the Fifth Taste

Umami - 5th Taste

Three trends: the popularity of food trucks, the use of social media and a focus on Asian cuisines have combined to deliver food with savory umami flavors.

The interest in Asian foods continues unabated with renewed focus on Thai, Malaysian and Vietnamese cuisines as well as new takes on traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes. Asian cooking, especially Southeast Asian with bright flavors, fresh herbs and umami taste delivering ingredients are popular on food truck menus. Vast numbers of food trucks serve a wide variety of Asian foods, with dishes that are innovative and often a fusion of different Asian (and other) food cultures.

Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Rooster

Chinese New Year Lion Dance

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the lunar New Year. The Asian New Year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February, due to cyclical lunar dating. On the Western calendar, the start of this New Year falls on January 28, 2017, The Year of the Rooster. On the Chinese calendar, 2017 is Lunar Year 4712.

As always, the New Year is marked with symbols of hope and prosperity, and of course, sumptuous food. For good luck and good fortune—or just plain good fun—here are some customs and foods to celebrate the coming year.

Make It Yesterday and Party Today!

Holiday Party Buffet

What makes a holiday party a blast? The answer is simple. You need the right blend of great food with tons of flavor, shared with fun friends, and above all – relaxed hosts. The winter holiday party season is greatly anticipated, but all too often one of the most stress-inducing times of the year. A little bit of savvy planning can make your holiday party easy. Here is a sample menu, suggested recipes and simple tips to knock out your guests with your party personality and not with your cooking cares.

If MSG is So Bad for You, Why Doesn’t Everyone in China Have a Headache?

“If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in China have a headache?” asked Jeffrey L. Steingarten, food critic at Vogue since 1989 and a leading food writer in the United States. And as a daughter of Chinese immigrants, and sister to a retired Chinese restaurant owner I ask my own question: “Why is it called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome?”

The simplest answer of course is the oft-repeated and familiar story of how it started with a 1968 letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) from Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok, complaining about radiating pain in his arms, weakness and heart palpitations after eating at Chinese restaurants. He speculated that cooking wine, MSG or excessive salt might be to blame. Entitled “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” by a NEJM editor, responses to Kwok’s letter poured in with complaints including headaches, stomachaches and dizziness. Scientists jumped to research the phenomenon of “MSG allergic reactions.” Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was considered a legitimate disorder by many in the medical establishment.

Umami Flavor is Highly Valued in Asian Cooking

The flavor we call umami is highly sought and valued in Asian cooking. The sauces, many based on soybeans rich in glutamate, deliver the umami flavor. Fermentation processes used to create the sauces break down the proteins in soybeans, releasing free glutamate acids and generating the flavor-elevating effect. And the use of MSG crystals heightens the umami flavor of the dishes.