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UmamiUnlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste$
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Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbæk

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231168908

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231168908.001.0001

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1 + 1 = 8

1 + 1 = 8

Gustatory synergy

(p.41) 1 + 1 = 8

Ole G. Mouritsen

Klavs Styrbæk

Jonas Drotner Mouritsen

, Mariela Johansen
Columbia University Press

This chapter examines how the intensity of the taste imparted by umami is affected by synergistic interactions with other substances that increase its gustatory intensity. It has been said that the taste imparted by equal amounts of glutamate and a nucleotide is eight times stronger than that produced by glutamate alone. In truth, the synergistic effect can be much stronger. This chapter first considers the two aspects of umami as a basal contribution, based on free glutamate, and a strengthening or synergistic contribution, which is due to the presence of 5'-ribonucleotides. It then explains how umami synergy is detected on the tongue and in the brain and cites Japanese dashi as a textbook example of umami synergy. It also discusses the art of making Japanese and Nordic dashi, how seaweeds enhance the umami in fish, how to make smoked shrimp heads, the interplay between glutamate and the four classic tastes, and how to create tastes synthetically.

Keywords:   taste, umami, gustatory intensity, glutamate, 5'-ribonucleotides, tongue, Japanese dashi, umami synergy, Nordic dashi, seaweeds

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