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WHAT UMAMI TASTES LIKE:
Adelicate taste. A mild, subtle taste. A taste that spreads across the tongue, coating it completely. A persistent, lingering taste. A mouthwatering sensation. This is how chefs who have experienced and recognized umami describe its characteristics.
Let us take a look at three properties of umami.
Spreading across the tongue
Umami is frequently described as a taste that “spreads across the tongue, coating it.” Experiments on the tongue’s areas of taste receptivity have shown that sweet and salty tastes are sensed more intensely on the tip of the tongue, while umami is sensed all across it.
One study had participants separately take solutions of the umami substances glutamate and inosinate, table salt, and tartaric acid (the acid component of wine) into their mouths, then spit the solutions out and compare the intensity of taste left in their mouth. While the salty and sour tastes of table salt and tartaric acid soon faded, umami was found to linger for several minutes. This suggests that even among the basic tastes, umami has a major impact on the aftertaste of foods.
Sour or acid taste is widely known to promote salivation, but in fact it has been revealed that umami triggers the sustained secretion of saliva for a longer period.
Furthermore, the saliva produced with sour tastes has a lighter quality, whereas the saliva produced with umami is more viscous, and this seems to moisten more the inside of the mouth.
Without saliva we are unable to sense taste or swallow food smoothly. Umami holds the key to these functions.