Chef Scientist: master umani, the savory taste


Umani described the “savory taste,” joining the ranks of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. The taste is considered distinct from saltiness since tongue sensory cells have distinct receptors for L-glutamate, a non-essential amino acid responsible for umani. MSG is comprised of monosodium glutamate, the ionic form of L-glutamate.


Molecular structure of L-glutamate


Cook’s Illustrated highlights that you can amplify the umani taste in foods by pairing glutamates with nucelotides (building blocks of DNA/RNA and intracellular energy carriers). By combining foods rich in glutamate with foods rich in nucleotides (guanylate or inosinate), you can achieve a dramatically more savory flavor.

Foods rich in glutamate include:

  • fish sauce
  • soy sauce
  • tomato paste
  • cured ham
  • anchovies
  • beef
  • cheddar cheese
  • Worscestershire sauce
  • parmesan cheese
  • sardines

Foods rich in nucleotides include:

  • shiitake mushrooms
  • pork
  • beef
  • dried procini mushrooms
  • anchovies
  • sardines




Pastry Chef (, software engineer (, and fitness enthusiast.

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  1. December 18, 2012

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