Monday, November 23, 2009

Why Japanese food tastes so good?

The Chinese believe in the 4 tastes - sweet, sour, bitter, spicy.

While the West buddies believe in sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

And then there is the 5th which is called the umami. It's the full-bodied taste that turns water into a kind of food which is soup. Most of us would remember Ajinomoto which when translated is 'the source of taste'. It is essentially an amino-acid salt or better known as MSG (yup, the stuff that urban legend says makes you go bald). Ajinomoto was advertising itself to be the 'umami', the 5th taste in our palate. I don't know how credible that claim is but this extraordinary 'taste' can also be achieved if you use meat stock or dashi (a type of Japanese kelp broth) minus the hair falling bit.

Japanese food essentially tastes so good (other than the fact that they use nothing short of the freshest ingredients), it's because dashi is used as a base for most of their cooking (soups, sauces, etc).

The simplest way to nail that umami taste, unknown to many, is when you add just a tiny bit of salt onto raw tomatoes. Yup, you've been having that for as long as you can remember and wondered how on earth salt and tomatoes can taste so... full-bodied for lack of a definition then. Well, now you know.

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