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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Instant Umami – Hanakezuri Kombu

IzakayaSakamoto

Suzuki Sashimi – Usuzukuri

Sashimi is a staple in our home. We never tire of it as the type of seafood we use for sashimi changes throughout the year. Suzuki, Japanese sea bass, is a firm-fleshed fish so it is cut in thin, usuzukuri slices. If it were cut thick, as we do with tuna, it would be too hard to chew through and unpleasant. In the middle here are julienned carrots, cucumbers, ginger, and daikon. Wrapping the sashimi around the vegetables is a nice contrast in textures.

IzakayaSakamoto

Suzuki Sashimi with Hokkaido Hanakezuri Kombu

The classic seasoning for sashimi is wasabi and soy sauce, but that can become routine, so we change-up the seasonings. The green shavings here are from kombu (Laminaria japonica, Japanese kelp). Kombu is rich in natural umami. Most of the time we use kombu for making dashi, the essential stock for many Japanese dishes. Kombu dashi is good on its own as a vegetarian stock. In our home we usually steep the kombu with katsuobushi, smoked skipjack tuna (or bonito) flakes.

The kombu shavings here are simply sprinkled over sashimi. Not only umami but it also gives the flavor of the ocean to the dish. It can also be used over tofu, rice, noodles, and even Japanese-style pasta.

Hanakonbu

Hanakezuri Kombu – kombu shavings

The name of the product is Hana-kezuri Kombu. Hana-kezuri is the name for the flower-like shavings, that is often seen with katsuobushi flakes.

Hana-kezuri Kombu is made by Towa Shokuhin in Iwate prefecture. This was purchased at the Nomono shop at Ueno Station.