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Umami is one of the five tastes that the cells on the human tongue can recognise, along with sweet, sour, bitter and salt. It is a Japanese word which denotes ‘savory’ or something close to ‘meaty’.

Umami was identified first in 1908 by the Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda who was researching the chemical composition of kelp, as used in the Japanese stock dashi. He identified its distinctive flavor as coming from monosodium glutamate. His work led to him developing monosodium glutamate commercially for the Ajinomoto company.

Umami is detected by the human tongue in all glutamates, specifically in meats and cheeses and other protein rich foods.

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