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Umami enhancers

Thursday, 30 November 2017 22:27:43 -0800
About 100 years ago Japanese chefs realized that there was a distinct flavor beyond the standard sweet, sour, salt, bitter range that everyone knows about. In Japan it became known as umami, or "fifth taste". The additional taste is the savory component present in meats but as it turns out it's also characteristic of a number of other foods. It's these other ingredients that Japanese chefs became expert at manipulating.

Products with high umami include mushrooms, seaweed, ripe tomatoes, aged cheese among many others. What they have in common are umami-activating compounds chemists have identified as glutamates. MSG is notorious for this property, but we don't have to consume tons of sodium in our food to get great flavor.

Here are two very simple to prepare and easy to use options that can be effectively applied to many dishes. Feel free to experiment, the results are often quite surprising in a good way!


Mushroom powder:
  • dried shitake mushrooms, whole/sliced 6 equiv.
  1. Remove stems from mushroom. (Shitake mushroom stems are mostly wood fiber from the log they were growing on!)
  2. Chop mushroom caps into half-inch chunks.
  3. Process in food processor or blender until reduced to a fine powder. There may be some larger chunks remaining. Chances are good these are mostly wood fiber from stem fragments.
  4. Be careful when opening the processor/blender! Very fine powder can escape as a "cloud" that's decidedly unpleasant to inhale. Let it settle for a while, and open the lid with an exhaust fan running nearby to carry off the "plume" of fine dust.
  5. Store in a cool, dry place in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Keeps very well without refrigeration.
Nori flakes:
  • nori, raw (not toasted) 1 sheet
  1. Tear nori sheet into several pieces and put in food processor or blender.
  2. Process until nori is reduced to tiny fragments which vary in size up to a a few millimeters wide (though rather irregular shape).
  3. When it appears nori particles won't reduce in size any further, stop processing and let contents settle.
  4. The nori flakes are very lightweight. Carefully remove lid and transfer nori particles to a storage container. It's important to keep moisture out so use a sturdy container with an airtight lid.
  5. As long as it's kept in a cool, dry environment the nori should be stable. (Don't put it in a refrigerator, way too much moisture there!)
categories: umami, seasonings

About Thinair Recipes

Recipes developed specifically for low-sodium diets—so easy to use! Here's a quick guide. Ingredients are in boxes:

  • garlic, chopped 3 cloves

Recipes can have several ingredient boxes showing stuff needed for numbered step-by-step instrucions:

  1. Saute garlic in oil until soft.
  2. Add chicken stock to pan...

Not too complicated!

BTW when "salt" is an ingredient, it refers to KCl or "salt substitute", not NaCl in any form! Ask your doctor if that's OK, KCl may not be healthy for some people.