In his TV programme, Heston Blumenthal, chef of Fat Duck, the 3 Michelin starred restaurant, one of the top 3 restaurants in the world, proudly stated that he uses Kombu in his cooking because of Umami. The term Umami became trendy and attractive.
Umami is a Japanese word that means ‘good flavour’. This flavour is generated due to the detection of glutamate. It was first identified by Kikunae Ikeda of the Tokyo Imperial University while researching the strong flavour in seaweed broth.
Recently, I discovered a new product called Taste No. 5 Umami paste. First impression was that it tried to sound like Chanel No. 5, the perfume . It contains tomato puree, garlic, anchovy paste, black olive, balsamic vinegar, porcini mushrooms, parmesan cheese, olive oil, vinegar, sugar and salt. Ironically, no seaweed extract which was the original ingredient that inspired the use of the word Umami! Tomatoes, porchini mushrooms, parmesan cheese naturally contain glutamate. I had high hope that this little tube would enhance the flavour of my meal.
I have been using the paste to cook a few pasta dishes, a stew and a roast. I do not think it is any better than any ordinary tomato paste. There was no ‘flavour bomb’ as promised on the box. It is just a posh tomato paste that has been ‘glamorised’ by marketing. By paying £2.99, instead of the usual 50p tomato paste, I could ‘proudly’ claim that I have added Umami to my cooking. This was supposed to make me sound ‘cool’ and ‘exotic’? Hmm, I am not sure if I want to buy another one again.