New Delhi: Umami is the new taste to hit the town. Present in all our foods, ranging from Biryani to Bonda, this mouthwatering sensation has been a topic of dispute, requiring focused perception, scientific reasoning and advanced neuroscience to prove its existence.
How could something as simple as taste be so complicated?
For thousands of years, it was common knowledge that our palates were capable of perceiving four distinct tastes.
Sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
Yet among all the delicious foods and morsels that are consumed everyday, there is one taste we overlook, umami.
Umami is the pleasant savoury taste that usually induces a lasting aftertaste in the back of the tongue. By itself, umami is not palatable, but instead heightens the effects of other basic tastes.
Umami's unique effect stems from glutamate, a common amino acid. Glutamates are only released through heating, fermentation or desiccation, which explains why raw foods are less palatable.
According to a report by the Guardian, the human tongue craves sweet foods, rich in calories and energy, and loathes bitter foods to avoid poisons and toxins.
Umami signals foods rich in protein, such as Panner, Kebabs and Rajma, with exceptions such as Rasam and Mushroom Matar.
Umami was only recently identified by Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikuda and it has played an integral part in the evolution of humanity.
Paul Breslin, one of the first scientists to prove the existence of umami taste receptors, speculates that umami offers evolutionary benefits, explaining why cooked foods, free from possible toxins, are rich in Umami.