The Japanese define taste again

Now that umami, the indescribable flavor associated with yumminess in foods like soy sauce and cheese, has been declared the fifth taste, chefs are moving on to
kokumi, a taste that is often described as richness or "mothfulness."

Kokumi is a non-tasting food or flavoring that, when combined with other foods, enhances "sweet, salty, and umami tastes" according to Japanese researchers at Ajinomoto, a Japanese seasonings and food product company, that published their findings in the November 2009 and January 2010 editions of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

It seems as though kokumi could be best described as a sensation, as the authors of the study explain your tongue has calcium receptors that sense kokumi and boost your other taste perceptions.

According to the South China Morning Post news outlet, "Givaudan flavourists, food flavour scientists and in-house chefs were in Hong Kong this month for the company's biennial Chefs' Council, held at the Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre in Pok Fu Lam."

Givaudan, the Swiss maker of food flavorings and fragrances worldwide, brought together world-renowned chefs including:

- Jordi Roca, a pastry chef, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain (Three Michelin stars and number 4 on S. Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants 2010 list)
- Alex Atala, D.O.M. in Sao Paulo, Brazil (number 18 on S. Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants 2010 list)
- Paul Virant, Vie in Chicago, USA
- Alvin Leung, Bo Innovation in Wan Chai, Hong Kong (a Michelin star and number 19 on Asia's Top 20 from The Miele Guide 2010/2011)

The company explained on its site that the event is designed to facilitate "collaborat[ing] and shar[ing] knowledge with Givaudan's own chefs - to inspire forward-thinking ideas, profile targets and customer concepts for ... Kokumi."

They continue to explain that kokumi can be created by "slow cooking stocks from bone or meat and stews, ... curing and drying, ...roasting, searing, confit and braising."

The blog Food & Think of the online magazine Smithsonian.com highlights that "calcium, protamine (found in milt, or fish sperm, which is eaten in Japan and Russia), L-histidine (an amino acid) and glutathione (found in yeast extract)" are all flavorless food compounds that can be described as kokumi.

Full study, "Involvement of the Calcium-sensing Receptor in Human Taste Perception": http://www.jbc.org/content/285/2/1016.abstract

 

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