Great chefs are always in search of new and creative ways to find the ever elusive ‘umami.’ The term umami is sometimes referred to as the fifth taste, the thing that blasts your lips with flavor, that hits the back of your throat and leaves you craving more.
But it’s really more of a concept than a taste. It’s a result of tedious simplification and resisting shortcuts.
There is no recipe for umami. It’s earned through many trials and a lot of failures. You’ll know it when you find it because it’s kind to the body. As one great chef put it: “It’s mild, and, after eating, it’s not heavy on your stomach. It helps you wake up better in the morning. That’s what deliciousness is about. It’s about feeling good after eating.”
The Japanese have a zen way of looking at umami. It’s well-rounded and harmonious. But it’s also bold. In a way, it helps you understand more about yourself. It comforts you with nostalgia and pushes you to rediscover some interesting things about yourself.
As soon as I started learning about umami, I began looking for it in the food I ate. I always like to ‘Yelp’ restaurants in the cities I visit and find the best local places to eat. I’ve noticed something interesting as I’ve read through reviews. The places where ‘the locals’ say things like ‘there’s just something about the food that makes it delightful,’ those restaurants never seem to disappoint. Those eatery’s have umami.
Good umami is always felt but rarely noticed. The same could be said for other important things in our lives. Like anything beautiful, good design, delicious food, quality relationships, memorable experiences, helpful products, and pleasant services, are hard to describe. They were designed that way. Great things are great because they create memories. They leave lasting impressions.
When your intuition is telling you things like, ‘oh, this is nice,’ or ‘I like this, but I’m not really sure why’ hold on to those things. Try not to concern yourself too much with wondering ‘what it is,’ but rather, be cognizant that you are experiencing something magical. Choose to be grateful and enjoy the gift you’ve been given. The gift of umami.