Umami (/uːˈmɑːmi/ from Japanese: 旨味 [ɯmami]), or savoriness is one of the five basic tastes. It has been described as savory and is characteristic of broths and cooked meats.
People taste umami through taste receptors that typically respond to glutamates and nucleotides, which are widely present in meat broths and fermented products. Glutamates are commonly added to some foods in the form of monosodium glutamate (MSG), and nucleotides are commonly added in the form of inosine monophosphate (IMP) or guanosine monophosphate (GMP). Since umami has its own receptors rather than arising out of a combination of the traditionally recognized taste receptors, scientists now consider umami to be a distinct taste.
Foods that have a strong umami flavor include meats, shellfish, fish (including fish sauce and preserved fish such as Maldive fish, sardines, and anchovies), tomatoes, mushrooms, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, meat extract, yeast extract, cheeses, and soy sauce.
Umami was first scientifically identified by Kikunae Ikeda at Tokyo Imperial University in 1908. He called it umami, which means deliciousness or savoriness. Five years later, his disciple Shintaro Kodama found that dried bonito flakes contained another umami substance, ribonucleotide IMP, which some decades later was also detected in shiitake mushrooms, this time by Akira Kuninaka. Kuninaka’s 1957 research revealed the synergistic effect of ribonucleotides and glutamate: when foods containing one are combined with the other, the resulting taste intensity is significantly more than the sum of its parts.