Chefs and Scientists
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.