Unami Or Yummy?


Cover image was made using pictures from OpenClipart

Nina: Nana, what are you eating?

Nana: None of your business.

Nina: Is that a tomato, I see?

Nana: So your eyes do work.

Nina: What does the tomato taste like?

Nana: Is this the Spanish inquisition?

Nina: I was just asking, because I read something intriguing about tomatoes today.

Nana: <chomp chomp>

Nina: Come on Nana. What taste groups would you put the tomato in?

Nana: If I answer, will you go away?

Nina: Yes, I promise, but only if you give a correct and complete answer.

Nana: Sweet and sour, now shoo!

Nina: WRONG. Well, incomplete.

Nana: Whatever do you mean?

Nina: You forgot unami.

Nana: You’re the tsunami, always wreaking havoc. Get lost.

Nina: Unami, Nana, not tsunami. Unami is a taste group, like sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

Nana: Nonsense, what taste is that? Can you actually recognize it?

Nina: Yes, it is a meaty, savory taste.

Nana: That’s just salty. I knew you were making it up.

Nina: No, it’s a lot more subtle. Unami has a mild aftertaste associated with salivating. Chemically it comes from the presence of free glutamates or nucleotides. So it’s definitely not salty. But it does enhance both sweet and salty flavors. It is present in some fermented foods because the fermenting procedure releases free glutamates.

Nana: You mean like mono sodium glutamate? Isn’t that bad for you?

Nina: MSG is one unami enhancer, and better avoided in in large amounts, but the unami in tomatoes is what makes ketchup so tasty. Unami is also found in mushrooms, spinach, celery, fish, cheese and many other natural foods. What's more, unami can be used to enhance the flavor in low sodium foods and diets.

Nana: That sounds really good. I love salty foods, but I can’t have them because of my high blood pressure.

Nina: In fact Nana, unami may be good for old people, because aging and some medications may impair a sense of smell and taste, and therefore reduce appetite. Enhancing food with unami helps restore appetite. Unami actually means pleasant savory taste in Japanese.

Nana: Unami or Yummy!

Nina: Haha, good one, Nana.

Nana: That made me hungry. Get me some more tomatoes.

Nina: Fat chance. You told me to shoo, remember? So, get your own tomatoes. But only if you race me to the kitchen, cause I feel like eating tomatoes too, and there aren’t many. <evil cackle>

This post is a part of the #NinaAndNana series I co-host with Lavanya Srinivasan. Her posts can be found here.

Tags: funfacts, biology, learn, science, family, Nina and Nana, humor, chemistry, food, cuisine