What is Umami?

Ever tasted something with a savory flavor you can't quite describe? It's probably umami.


Umami is a bit of culinary buzzword that restaurants and foodies tend to throw around a lot, but what does it really mean?

While it is commonly understood that our tongues can sense four main tastes, mainly sweet, sour, salty and bitter, the Japanese have long held the belief that there is an elusive fifth flavor taste known as umami. Umami can be loosely translated into “deeply savory” and refers to food’s rounder, deeper, more savory flavors, most often associated with soy sauce, cooked beef and tomatoes.


To celebrate the wonder that is umami, the team at Ajinomoto held their annual Ajinomoto Umami Culinary challenge last January 30. Hundreds of students in the culinary field participated in a variety of cooking competitions which highlighted the possibilities of cooking with umami on an everyday basis.

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The students, who hailed from 23 schools from all over the country, were judged by local cooking luminaries such as Chef Gene Gonzalez, Chef Sau del Rosario and Chef Eugene Raymundo, based on their ability to bring out the best umami flavors in their cooking. Hercor College from the Visayas region bagged two awards in the national cooking showdown categories: "Best Filipino Umami Dish" and the "My Own Umami Creation".  The competition is aimed at promoting the role of umami in food and nutitrition and its relevance to culiny professionals around the world.

 Photos courtesy of Ajinomoto Philippines

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