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Umami = Yummy! Literally.

For thousands of years conventional wisdom was that our sense of taste consisted of four primary tastes - sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Even a close examination of the tongue revealed four different types of receptors, one for each of the basic tastes.

In the late 1800s Parisian chef to the elite, Auguste Escoffier, created meals that didn’t taste like any combination of the known primary tastes. Although Escoffier knew that he had found a fifth primary taste, the scientific community remained unconvinced. That was until Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University, now the University of Tokyo, came on the scene in 1908. He, too, knew that a fifth primary taste existed in food such as dashi, a classic Japanese soup made from seaweed. As a chemist, he was able to identify the secret ingredient and determined it to be glutamic acid, which he renamed "umami," meaning "delicious" or "yummy" in Japanese.

Finally in the 1980s various studies proved that umami was in fact a legitimate fifth primary taste. Then in 2002 scientists confirmed that humans do have receptors on their tongue which register L-glutamate, or umami.

That brings us to 2009 when Adam Fleischman turned his fascination with the fifth taste into the burger sensation Umami Burger. Fleischman took the all-American classic and infused it with the umami taste to create 9 amazing burgers:

  • Umami Burger | shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted tomato, parmesan crisp, umami ketchup
  • Truffle Burger | house-made truffle cheese, truffle glaze
  • Hatch Burger | 4 types of green chiles, house cheese
  • Port & Stilton Burger | blue cheese, port-caramelized onion
  • Cali Burger | butter lettuce, slow-roasted tomato, house spread, house-made American cheese, caramelized onions
  • The Greenbird | Shelton farms turkey, crushed avocado, green cheese, butter lettuce, sprouts, green goddess
  • Earth Burger | mushroom & edamame patty, white soy aioli, truffled ricotta, cipollini onions, lettuce, slow-roasted tomato
  • Manly Burger | beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt-onion strings, bacon lardon
  • Ahi Tuna Burger | hand-chopped ahi tuna, crushed avocado, daikon sprouts, pickled ginger, wasabi flakes

With the opening of Umami Greenwich Village,  Fleischman has added two uniquely New York menu items, the 5-Spice Duck Burger and a French-dip sandwich. And now you know why Dr. Ikeda named L-glutamate, “yummy”!

Hungry for more? Visit Umami Information Center or check out NPR's Krulwich Wonders.

Umami = Yummy! Literally.


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