The Legend of Umami

I first heard about the concept of umami when I was helping to open a Japanese restaurant a few years back. During our training, the chef was telling us about the Japanese word umami, which is the “fifth taste.” After sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, what is left? What is the taste that will truly satiate? Apparently it is umami, which loosely translates to “pleasantly savory.” Fair enough.

Umami seems to be a rather intangible concept. If you so desire, take a look at its Wikipedia article, which has all sorts of tips on what foods contain “high amounts of umami” and uses a lot of science-y terms that overwhelm me. To me, umami is my unicorn of the food world. It has a mystical appeal, only made moreĀ desirable by the fact that I don’t know if I fully understand or believe in it. But am intrigued by its powers.

A small restaurant chain in LA, unsurprisingly namedĀ Umami Burger, has attempted to harness the power of umami. Many of my California friends rave about it. On the cover of the June issue of Food & Wine there is an amazing-looking burger; Patrick and I decided we had to make it, and upon inspection of the recipe, discovered it was an Umami Burger with Port and Stilton. Perfect!


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