It appears some confusion exists about the relationship between umami and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Are they similar? Where did umami come from? Does MSG have umami flavor? Inquiring minds want to know.
If you are still a bit perplexed, we’d like to help. To do so, I’ve looked back at the blogs posted on MSGdish.com over the past few years. From there, I excerpted a few statements that are educational, even though they may be a bit repetitive, but repetition can be good. So here we go!
Over a hundred years ago, Professor Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University wondered what made kelp broth taste so good. He recognized that, “There is a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but which is not one of the four well-known tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salty,” and set out to figure out what it was. He discovered that glutamate, an amino acid made by many plants and animals, was the source of this distinctive taste, and named the flavor “umami.”
Twenty-five years ago, a television channel dedicated solely to food came into our homes. Yes, I’m talking about the Food Network. At the time, the concept of watching culinary experts (24/7 no less) sharing their skills and knowledge — live and via video — was novel. Up until then, resources were limited to reading about the culinary world or practicing food preparation methods first-hand.
Now, however, we take for granted that we can learn about food and cooking by watching and listening to television/radio shows and online videos. Content ranges from food trends, culinary techniques and new ingredients to competitions between seasoned chefs (as well as contests between novices and professionals). All it takes to learn more about food is as simple as turning on our TVs or by tapping a button on our computers, tablets or smart phones.
Indeed, discussions about food have permeated our lives, whether we like it or not. “Food talk” is now inescapable in our society. For example, until we had these television shows, online videos and websites, who had heard much about umami taste, which has been taking the culinary world by storm for the past decade?
Here we go again. Another year has passed us by so it’s time to make the oft-dreaded New Year resolutions. If you’re like millions of other people, weight loss will be a part of those resolutions. If I had to guess, far too many new year resolutions are made while in a holiday fog, thanks to:
For all of us umami lovers, how could we really live without that umami flavor? That deep, savory note that sets off gustatory happiness in our brain—it’s something we crave as part of a complete flavor experience.
But what I just wrote is not completely true. Experiencing umami flavor is not about a select group of people with heightened tasting abilities or people who are dedicated umami aficionados. Rather, it is about all of us as human beings.
In case you missed this informative article about “What is MSG,” published in the Huffington Post this month…
Author Julie R. Thomson noted: “MSG is one of the most notorious ingredients in the United States. The Japanese ingredient that’s commonly used in Chinese restaurants stateside, has been blamed for making people feel ill with symptoms ranging from headaches to asthma. (This reaction came to be known as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.)”
“Many studies have been done to determine a relationship between the consumption of MSG and the symptoms that comprise the syndrome mentioned above, but they have failed to find a link.”