Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

Front Cover
Columbia University Press, Apr 22, 2014 - Cooking - 280 pages
In the West, we have identified only four basic tastesÑsour, sweet, salty, and bitterÑthat, through skillful combination and technique, create delicious foods. Yet in many parts of East Asia over the past century, an additional flavor has entered the culinary lexicon: umami, a fifth taste impression that is savory, complex, and wholly distinct. Combining culinary history with recent research into the chemistry, preparation, nutrition, and culture of food, Mouritsen and Styrb¾k encapsulate what we know to date about the concept of umami, from ancient times to today. Umami can be found in soup stocks, meat dishes, air-dried ham, shellfish, aged cheeses, mushrooms, and ripe tomatoes, and it can enhance other taste substances to produce a transformative gustatory experience. Researchers have also discovered which substances in foodstuffs bring out umami, a breakthrough that allows any casual cook to prepare delicious and more nutritious meals with less fat, salt, and sugar. The implications of harnessing umami are both sensuous and social, enabling us to become more intimate with the subtleties of human taste while making better food choices for ourselves and our families. This volume, the product of an ongoing collaboration between a chef and a scientist, won the Danish national Mad+Medier-Prisen (Food and Media Award) in the category of academic food communication.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


What exactly is taste and why is it important?
Sour sweet salty and bitter
What is umami?
Gustatory synergy
Seaweeds fish and shellfish
Fungi and plants
Meat eggs and dairy products
The secret behind the humble soup stock
Umami and wellness
Umami has come to stay
Technical and scientific details
Illustration credits
The people behind the book

Making the most of umami

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2014)

Ole G. Mouritsen is a distinguished scientist and professor of biophysics at the University of Southern Denmark. His books include Sushi: Food for the Eye, the Body, and the Soul and Seaweeds: Edible, Available, and Sustainable.

Klavs Styrbæk is a chef who, for more than twenty years, has owned and run the highly regarded Restaurant Kvægtorvet (The Cattle Market) in Odense, Denmark, and is a passionate advocate for the renewal of classical Danish cuisine.

Mariela Johansen has Danish roots, lives in Canada, and holds an MA in humanities.

Jonas Drotner Mouritsen is a graphic designer and owns the design company Chromascope ( His movie projects have won several international awards.

Bibliographic information