Ever find yourself with an undeniable hankering for a flavor that you can't quite put your finger on? Chances are you’re hungry for umami. Like a strange girl showing up in Bruce Willis’ flying taxi, this fifth element of flavor is making a huge splash with West-Coast import, Umami Burger.
So what is umami anyway? It’s that other, elusive taste next to sweet, sour, salty and bitter. From Japanese, it’s often translated as a “pleasant savory taste,” and according to science, it’s one of the keys to the feeling satisfied after a meal. Mmm, science.
Umami is a natural flavor in a lot more foods than you might realize, especially in meat, fish, vegetables and dairy...which seems like almost all of the foods, now that we think about it. Some of the biggest (read: most delicious) contenders are beef jerky, chicken soup (and other rich broths), shiitake mushrooms, soybeans, miso paste, potato chips, carrots, parmesan cheese, green tea, tuna, shrimp, shellfish and our favorite: BACON! Whoa, what a rush.
Now that we’re dreaming of steaming pho and bacon-wrapped scallops, here are some awesome ways to eat said umami, all around the city, starting with the newest:
The secret behind Umami Burger’s craveably irresistible patties is that these folks are combining foods with high levels of this mysterious fifth taste. The restaurant's namesake is topped with shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, a parmesan crisp and roasted tomatoes, all drizzled over with a special umami ketchup.
Mission Chinese Food
Another Californian import, you’ll find umami in just about everything at this popular Sichuan-style restaurant. Chef Danny Bowien is whipping up dishes that showcase the savory flavor, like the thrice-cooked bacon, the tea-smoked eel rolls and the mapo ramen. (Fatty pork broth with seaweed and mapo tofu = umami heaven!)
A little thing called Umami could also be the reason why the words “dry aged steak” just made you drool a little bit. It's okay, here's a napkin. The longer a meat ages, the more umami/overall deliciousness it contains. So the next time you’re feelin’ fancy, sink your teeth into one of the porterhouses, beautifully aged in the joint’s legendary meat vault.