Imagine a taste that when played in balance with salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, work harmoniously to bring the height of flavor and pleasure out of a dish. The fifth element of taste has created a breakthrough for chefs, food manufacturers and health professionals alike: umami. While still a relatively new discovery in the new culinary world, its usage in numerous cuisines, notably through the use of sea vegetables such as sea spaghetti (Himanthalia Elongata) and phytoplankton (Nannochloropsis Gaditana), highlight why umami translates to: “deliciousness”.
Dating back almost 3,000 years in Greece and Rome, what is now known as umami was being utilized in foods with fermented fish sauces. In 1825, French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin presented the word “osmasome” to describe rich, meaty tastes, foreshadowing future science discovery of what triggered the taste. Finally, 20th century Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda determined the source of the taste, by replicating a soup from boiled bamboo, with the commonly known ingredient, seaweed, and dried tuna. By isolating the substance that gave his broth its distinctive flavor, it was discovered that glutamate, one of the 20 amino acids that make up proteins, along with inosinate and guanylate were responsible for the unique flavor(s), and the defined taste of umami was born.
It is often described as a taste that is slightly savory, but not salty. In order to achieve umami, it is crucial to understand the science behind the taste. Umami is defined as the taste of salt combining with glutamate, also known as glutamic acid, an amino acid necessary for the synthesis of proteins, along with inosinate and guanylate, both natural flavor enhancers. Human’s ability to differentiate tastes is a vital skill in our evolution and survival, allowing us to avoid dangerous foods and at the same time obtain essential nutrients for survival. Receptors in taste buds respond specifically to the taste of umami, which signals our bodies that we have consumed protein.
Consuming whole proteins requires the digestive system to burn a lot of energy in order to break them down into amino acids. Amino acids in umami rich foods are in a free state, meaning they are more quickly and easily digested than complete proteins,
due to the disintegration of the amino acid chain. Food rich in the umami taste is the taste of glutamates ready for our body to use to fuel the digestive process.
With the increased popularity of umami in recent decades, global cuisine has worked to achieve umami synergy (when glutamate is combined with inosinate or guanylate), as the taste of umami is sensed far more strongly when the substances are combined, rather than individually. Dishes in glutamate rich vegetables, combined with inosinate, (dishes rich in fish and meat), contribute to what the Japanese refer to as うま味がある, (“to have umami”). The ocean provides two main sources for the taste of umami: seaweed and phytoplankton. Both Sea Spaghetti and Marine Phytoplankton provide a concentrated natural source of glutamic acid to heighten one’s taste of umami. The versatility of the sea vegetables provides chefs and culinary experts the opportunity to explore and create full-flavored dishes.
Sustainably hand harvested off the Galician Coast of Spain, organic Sea Spaghetti represents one of the most versatile products, dried at low temperatures to preserve maximum nutritional benefits. Common in coastal depths and rough waters, the flavor of Sea Spaghetti is similar to that of cuttlefish. As sea vegetables have emerged as a new superfood, Sea Spaghetti proves its benefits, notable in nutrients such as the concentration of fiber and iron, ideal as an addition into a vegan or vegetarian diet, in order to provide plant-based source of nutrients, many times found in larger percentages in animal-based products. Adding into salads, broths, or as an alternative to a traditional pasta provides a versatile, medium intensity ingredient to transform the dish.
Phytoplankton is another example of achieving the taste of umami. A unicellular organism harvested in Northern European by utilizing oceanic currents and isolated water bands free of contaminants and heavy metals, Marine Phytoplankton powder provides innovative chefs a natural product rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, as well as vitamins E and C. In its original powder form, Marine Phytoplankton, also may be used as a natural preservative, adds an intensely fresh, clean oceanic flavor to dishes such diverse dishes as bread, pasta and popcorn, seafood, or paella and many rice dishes.
Once rehydrated with water, Marine Phytoplankton powder transforms into a spice that delivers a new intensity of flavor for marinades, dressings, or dips. Sea vegetables represent one of the world’s greatest renewable and ecological resources for cuisine. Diverse in their usage, Sea Spaghetti and Marine Phytoplankton provide a palatable, nutrient packed flavor to attain the full umami experience.