(Originally posted on Sensorium, July 9 2014)
While sweet-sour-bitter-salty flavours were identified as basic flavours thousand of years ago, writes Larissa Dubecki, umami was not identified until 1909.
The person who identified and named the flavour was Japanese professor Kikunae Ikeda, who then turned entrepreneur, establishing a factory producing monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a concentrated crystalline extract of one type of glutamate and is widely used as a flavour booster in food. (See this link to the Japanese Patent Office.)
Even though the flavour was identified over 100 years ago, it is only now widely coming into public recognition in the West. In fact, Dubecki, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, announced that 2014 is the “year of umami”.
What exactly is umami?