Umami: The Fifth Taste


Umami: The Fifth taste

When asked how many senses of taste there are, people answer this question as four which are sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness. These tastes can be detected by tongue buds. However, one more taste was investigated recently which is umami (meatiness) taste. Umami is a Japanese word and its lexical meaning is delicious. Umami taste was commonly used in Asian cuisine e.g. sauces, seasonings, fish, meat meals. It is used to enhance the flavor of a meal and to give a delicious taste, so it is described as savory and brothy. The compounds are Inosine monophosphate (IMP) Guanosine monophosphate (GMP) and Monosodium glutamate (MSG) which give a brothy flavor to meals (Briand & Salles, 2016). These compounds have a synergic effect on each other so they do not give umami taste themselves but when they are together, they enhance flavor much more and increase the long-lasting taste perception. MSG giving umami taste is also known as Chinese salt in daily life.


This synergistic effect of umami is seen in the rich taste characteristics of most cuisines. For example, in Turkish cuisine, meats are cooked with various vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, carrots; adding parmesan cheese, mushroom and tomato sauce in Italian cuisine; making dashi with kombu seaweed and dried bonito fish in Japanese cuisine. The reason for choosing meat and tomato is that while the meat is described as inosinate and tomato is glutamate, so it creates umami taste in food and enhances the taste.


Umami flavor is found in many foods consumed daily rich in glutamate such as fish, cured meats like bacon and salami, milk, tomatoes, some vegetables, fermented and aged products such as cheeses, shrimp pastes, fish sauce, soy sauce.


Umami has become so popular nowadays. It is also known that umami flavors increase  appetite. However, it was used extensively in China to increase flavor and caused side effects such as chest pain, headache (migraine), facial flushing, shortness of breath, edema, sweating. That's why it's called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. However, the relationship between monosodium glutamate and the Chinese restaurant syndrome has not been scientifically explained.


CONTENT: Ceyda İpek Selçuk




Briand, L., & Salles, C. (2016). Taste perception and integration. In Flavor (pp. 101-119). Woodhead Publishing

Cömert, M., & Güdek, M. (2017). Beşinci Tat: Umami (Fifth Taste: Umami). Journal of Tourism and Gastronomy Studies, 5(3), 397-408..

Ghirri, A. ve Bignetti, E. (2012). Occurrence and role of umami molecules in foods. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 63(7), 871–881. 

Yamaguchi, S., and Ninomiya, K. (1998) What is umami? Food Rev. Int.,14 , 123-138.