Umami International Symposium 2016

The International Umami Symposium 2016, was held in Yokohama on Sunday, June 5th. The presenters consisted of chefs and scientists and revealed many new insights. Some highlights from my notes:

Fire and fermentation are two ways to change umami in food.

At two months a baby can understand umami flavor and has an innate preference for it.

Mother’s milk is rich in free amino acids (umami). This is a beautiful, elegant, simple system. (Dr. Julie Menella)

Protein with umami is more satisfying than carbohydrates.

Around the world, children are introduced to umami-rich ingredients. In Thailand it is fish sauce, Italy it is parmesan, in Denmark it is fish eggs.

From chef and scientist Ali Bouzari, “Umami is not Japanese at all. Umami is human”.

Chef Takahashi of Kyoto Kinobu discussed the traditional kaiseki kitchen which uses kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (smoked skipjack tuna flakes) as a base to so many dishes. He also touched on the mouthfeel of different dishes

Chef Wakiya of Wakiya-Ichiemi Charo talked about growing up in Hokkaido, a part of Japan that is famous for many umami-rich ingredients and dishes like dried squid, ramen, kombu. He trained in China and learned to work with dried scallops, cured hams as well as drinking different Chinese teas that are fermented and rich in umami.

Chef Kyle is using liquid shio koji to marinade fish and meat which supports the natural flavor and adds umami. Chef’s new restaurant, Single Thread, will be opening later this year. There he makes miso-like products using koji (aspergillus oryzae). He went on to talk about how American chefs incorporate umami into their menus using the example of chef Sean Brock using green pea miso and ham broth dashi.

I was hoping to hear Professor Ole Mouritsen (author of several great books on umami and seaweed) discuss mouthfeel as his next book will be out on this topic.

Most of the food-related events I attend are chef-centric. This was a treat to listen to scientists and professors talk about the science of umami and to see how the chefs work with it in the kitchen.

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Fermented Butter

Fermented Butter

Fermented butter is popping up here and there in Tokyo, even at 7-11 convenience stores in these simple fermented butter rolls. You know when a new food trend has become mainstream when it makes it to your local 24-hour combini.

Food Sake Tokyo Radar

To keep our readers up-to-date with the Tokyo food scene, I will post from time to time some news about what’s happening in the metropolis. Keeping a finger on the pulse of cuisine here is hard, so I hope this helps you to know what you should have on your food radar.

Takashi Saito will be opening Taka by Sushi Saito in the St. Regis in Kuala Lumpur this spring. I hear the counter will be twice as big as the Tokyo main shop, so maybe it will be easier to get into? Sushi Saito in Roppongi is one of the hardest reservations to come by, harder than Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Kyoto Katsugyu, famous for its gyukatsu, has opened its first shop in Tokyo. Japanese wagyu or US sirloin is breaded and deep-fried. 1F Chiyoda 21 Bldg., Kanda Mitoshirocho 9-7, Chiyoda-ku. http://kyoto-katsugyu.com/

The Kyoto Distillery will start producing artisanal gin using Japanese botanicals in early 2016. http://kyotodistillery.jp/wp/

Mos Burger has opened an upscale burger shop MOS Classic, with an expanded menu, cocktails, and wine. 1-8-11 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku. http://www.mosclassic.jp/

Milanese pizza is now available in Tokyo at Spontini’s. The thick crust is a big change from the Neopolitan style which is more prevalent. Spontini’s has been in Milano since 1953. Two branches in Tokyo, Harajuku (1-10-37 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku) and Shibuya (1-21-3 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku), serve the pizza by-the-slice. http://www.pizzeriaspontini.jp/english.html

Fans of Omotesando Koffee were sad to see the shop close at the end of last year. Sarutahiko Coffee has opened a branch in the H.I.S. Book and Coffee shop at 1F, Barbizon 7, 4-3-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. http://www.omotesando-info.com/shop/gourmet/shop/sarutahikocoffee-omotesando.html

Sage and Fennel in Hiroo with its colorful salads and soups is mostly, but not exclusively, about seasonal vegetables. 5-19-6 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. http://www.saf.tokyo/

Verve Coffee Roasters from Santa Cruz, California, will be opening in Shinjuku station this April. Some great information on Sprudge.com here:

http://sprudge.com/verve-coffee-are-expanding-to-japan-93357.html