Secret of umami revealed by science

There are 5 fundamental taste receptors in human gestation including sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness and umami. Umami is often translated as a savory flavor and its unique characteristic is synergetic effect when used with other ingredients, bumping up the umami drastically.

Japanese chefs have known this fact long ago before umami was discovered from their experience and utilized umami in their cooking. Knowing that this savory taste were distinct from other 4 fundamental tastes and used this synergistic effect from the experience when using food filled with glutamic acid such as kombu seaweed with other umami ingredients will increase the taste. That is because Japanese food is to extract ingredients taste using ingredients such as kombu seaweed. Therefore, Japanese dashi stock using kombu and bonito was invented from the experience.

4 years ago, mechanism of taste synergy effect was discovered. Receptor of Umami, shaped like venus fly trap bind close to the hinge region bind to an adjacent site when glutamic acid is together and stabilizing it. When stabilized, glutamic acid is able to stay in the receptor, increasing umami in the gestation.

venus fly trap / BotheredByBees

When umami is added, meal become more palatable with savory flavor, making the food taste the way they taste like. With little bit of work and ingredients, it will make your dish multiple times better and healthier for low sodium. Utilize umami and add healthy delicious meal.

Meaning of Osechi


osechi year 2010 / nAok0

In Japanese culture you will see many occasions using puns to be a good omen. Especially on New Year, the most important holiday of all in Japan, uses many puns in a hope for a better and healthy life for their family members by eating special meal called osechi.

Osechi is served in special boxes that are just like layered bento boxes and consumed through out the new year celebration. On the New Year, there is a belief that toshigami, the New Year God will visit your house and fire was considered holy and avoids using them as much as they could. Only exception is the mochi soup called ozouni, to be eaten with New Year god. Thus, Osechi is composed food that is meant to serve cold. However, since Osechi is enjoyed thorough out New Years, Osechi is prepared to last long. Among all ingredients that are used on osechi, kombu is one of most utilized product, including boiled kombu seaweed, to flavoring with dashi stock.

Osechi originally imported from china as a food for cerebration on 700AD. Then Osechi became meal to celebrate New Year. As I stated earlier, each ingredients used in osechi has special meaning hoping for better coming year. Those foods listed below.

Simmered kombu roll (kombu maki) – kombu symbolizes happiness as Japanse word for happiness is yorokobu associate with kombu. Kombu is used in osechi in many forms and dishes

Sweet mashed potato made with chestnuts (kuri-kinton) – associated with fortune as the color reminds gold. Chestnut can be grown in all regions and is used for good fortune.

Red and white fishkcake (kamaboko) – fish cake symbolizes sunrise and must have item for osechi. Sunrise has special meaning as it depicted on national flag. Moreover red symbolize happiness and white symbolizes holiness and purity.

Black beans (kuro-mame) – beans represents health and rugged and must have item for osechi

Herring roe – as herring reproduce thousands of eggs, it symbolizes fertility.

Shrimp – as they have long beard and curved back reminds of aged men and symbolizes longevity

Burdock – thin and long plant that roots in underground is thought to be the role model life and used in many osechi foods.

Lotus roots – hole in the lotus roots let you see through the future.

Osechi put meaning on the dish into important consideration and many of them consume lots of time and effort. lots of house wives spend new years eve, preparing for the new year to have a joyful New Year with the family and relatives

Use of kombu seaweed in world

Usage of kombu seaweed has been widen but there are not many countries using kombu in daily diet and savory. Kombu probably will continue to be used as a healthy ingredient and gain presence in the use. With in that use, there will be better methods, recipes will be introduced and to make more people to enjoy kombu seaweed, we will continue to provide with products that satisfy demands.

Recently, Kombu has been used in many parts of the world as healthy and tasty ingredients. However, Japan is the only country establishing a way to consumer as soup stock and many other cooking methods. Not only dashi stock but traditional shaved kombu are seasoned only with Vinegar, and many other product using kombu try to pull out all the umami kombu seaweed have. Though, it is true that kombu seaweed have been eaten in many other places of world.

Japan leads a consumption of kombu seaweed in the world, but behind Japan is China. China which is most of the geographical area is occupied on land, kombu seaweed and other seafood were considered valuable and given from korea and japan as a tribute. During Qing dynasty, many kombu seaweeds were exported from Japan through Nagasaki and Okinawa. It was treasured as one of the few ingredients to intake iodine because at the time, many inland residents suffer from endemic disease from lack of iodines. Cooking method varies depending on the region such as using sliced kombu as appetizer, stir fry, and soup. However, most of the kombu seaweeds consumed in China are cultured kombu harvested within a year, which cannot be used as dashi stock.

In Taiwan, Kombu seaweeds are used in many households and can be seen in general grocery markets. Many street vendor served kombu seaweed as a thinly cut kombu kelp that is tied and dried.

Moreover, Russia has been increasing the consumption. It is consumed in a can where putting sliced raw kombu pickled in plain oil. It is true that consumption of kombu seaweeds are rising in Russia, it is mostly used for it’s nutrients as substitute a vegetables and not for it’s palate.

In America, due to its trend of Japanese food, consumption has started to rise rapidly with the 2000 tons of consumption every year. Kombu seaweeds are used mostly in Japanese restaurants and dried kombu. Other than these countries, European nations spiked the fish consumption due to its healthy Japanese food trend and seaweeds are used as rich in minerals and fibers. As our company sells Seaweed Salad on the go and Japanese delight, it is enjoyed by many for its taste and health benefits. These products are easy to make in regular household, where previously it was hard to obtain in your daily diet.

Seaweeds in the UK

Few weeks earlier, there was the news that first license to sell, and harvest seaweeds were given to a man from government in the United Kingdom. They hold many coastal areas and able to harvest and more than 650 seaweeds exists in their economic water. However, not many types of seaweed were eaten in the UK. As the traditional seaweed delicacy, laverbread exists but many do not eat often or avoid it due to its image of poverty. Though, as the Japanese food got popular and got the support from general public, seaweed became more common to them. As people started eating seaweeds, their image started to change into something healthy.


Laverbread Oatcakes topped with Soft Goats Cheese & Laverbread / Girl Interrupted Eating

Seaweeds are not only rich in mineral but enhances flavor of the dish. In fact England’s renowned celebrity chef and owner for “Fat Duck”, Heston Blumenthal was assigned for project in National Health Service to make the hospital food better and proposing them to use seaweeds in the dishes to add meaty flavor. A meal time is one of the few pleasures for patients but often times; seasonings are too weak due to the health concerns. To fix this problem, Blumenthal recommended adding seaweeds such as kombu seaweeds to enhance the flavors and umami not adding any sodium. By using nature made ingredients filled with glutamate, making it possible to serve healthy dinner that actually tastes good for patients. This project is still on an experimental stage and is used in few NHS hospitals but initial reaction of patients went well. If this project succeeds on running an everyday meal, it will be applied to all of the NHS hospital in all over the United Kingdom.

I hope to take this opportunity for people in The UK to try out more seaweeds and enjoy the health and flavor benefits from it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is the Thanksgiving day in America. It’s the day all the family members and friends gather and have reunion with traditional food such as turkey, apple pie, mash potato, and casserole. Many of you probably experienced eating too much food and next day, you gain weight, or too lazy to go Black Friday shopping.

Kombu seaweed is the effective ingredient for relieving fatigue, help you digest food and prevent fat to absorb in your system, and add umami (savory taste) in your dish. With using kombu seaweed, you could welcome your friends from far away after those long drive, and replenish their appetite.

For example, add kombu dashi stock to regular chicken bouillon when making bean casserole. In Japanese food, kombu is often paired with beans to help digest them.

If you are having vegetarian friends or relatives to your house over, you could serve them tofurkey made with tofu. Originally Tofu was used in Japanese food and it has been used with kombu seaweed as a pair. Kombu is vegan friendly food and is appreciated by them for them to. You could use kombu for stuffing wild rice in your tofurkey. Before stuffing them in, cook wild rice with dashi water and can add saddle savory taste in it. You could also arrange it with your taste using left over turkey

our unpardoned turkey! / Jeff Sandquist

Im sure there are people who go lining up to cue to get your Black Friday and get ready for shopping spree weekend through Cyber Monday, prepare yourself with kombu umami jolt.

Paleo Diet and Kombu Seaweed

Whoever reading this blog are probably health conscious and heard or know of Paleo diet. It has been getting lot of buzz and spotlight as many celebrities are practicing this diet. Paleo diet is gluten-free dietary and life style of Paleolithic homo sapience when main activities of the time was hunting and harvesting. There are many variations to this diet but basis of Paleo diet is to live like cave man, so you don’t get to eat any sugar, grains, salt or any seasonings. Instead, you could eat meat as much as you want, not worrying about any calories. Homo sapience was more active than how people live in modern life but they didn’t take in carbon hydrate, which is main component of modern diet. Thus, Paleo diet is going back to primitive dietary such as eating none carbon hydrated food when one gets hungry, sleeping when you want to sleep. It has been getting lot of buzz and spotlight as many celebrities are practicing this diet and kombu seaweed comes handy in this diet.

Since way to refine salt and sugar was not established, they can not be used in the diet too. If you just read this, it sounds like it has lot of limitation to this diet. However, as long as you avoid eating beans and grains, you could eat as much as you want not caring about calories. Moreover, you could take some break from Paleo diet occasionally and have some modern food as it is hard to prepare every meal without any of the prohibited ingredients and need to be stress free and if this diet is causing stress, it’s like putting the cart before the horse. Even without salt or sugar, by taking in nutrient rich product in your diet such as vegetables, seaweeds and nuts. Seaweeds are excellent source of vitamin B, magnesium, as well as a great source of iron, calcium, iodine, and the pantothenic acid. Seems like cave man knew the nutritional value of seaweeds and kombu, it has been used in medical and food from 20,000 years ago. You can not only flavor your food with kombu, they can substitutes salt and add nutrients food and is perfect food for Paleo diet. Paleo Diet News, a news blog for Paleo diet, have article for kombu as a super food for Paleo diet.

Traditional Rite of Passage into a Adulthood and National Kombu Seaweed Day

There is lot of national day allover in world and so too, kombu has a national kombu day in Japan. In Japan, November 15th is the National Kombu seaweed day. However, it is more widely known for the day of shichigosan (七五三). It literally means seven-five-three in Japanese and it’s a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three and seven year old girls and three and fiver year old boys.
For this event originally, when girls are 3 years old, they are allowed to grow out their hair. For 5 years old boy, after this day they could wear a hakama, traditional Japanese clothing wore by men, while girls of age seven replaced the simple cords they used to tie their kimono with the traditional obi. It is consider to be turning in to adults.

七五三 / muratama

Nowadays it’s only a one day event and most people just visit shrine, take a photo with hakama or kimono on. Chitose Ame(千歳飴),literally “thousand year candy”, is given to children and is long, thin, red and white candy, which symbolizes healthy growth and longevity. It is given in a bag decorated with a crane and turtle, which represent long life in Japan.

Shichigosan gifts / geraldford

Kombu also is considered as auspicious food due to its rich nutrients and puns. Japanese word representing joy, yorokobu and kobu puns and is often used in many ceremonial events ingredients. For kids who reached shichigosan, eating kombu seaweed fill with rich nutrient hoping them to turn like kombu that grows fast absorbing all the sunlight, hoping for kid’s health and longevity. On top of that, kombu seaweed that was gathered during summer goes out on market so it also act as harvest festival celebrating nature’s blessing. Folks, it might not easy to eat kombu on November 15th but consider taking kombu seaweed in your daily diet!

Using kombu to extract umami for cocktail becoming a new trend.

News site for all the dining and drinking information, eaters.com, published article about experimental cocktail explores for savory recently.

In the article, it talked about how some bartender and distiller are trying to make cocktail and hard liquor into something like a wine. Most cocktail that exists do not match well with food. Those people thought by finding a similar factor with food and cocktail makes it more compatible and came up with cocktail such as kombu seaweed. Hard liquor usually contains a high alcohol but by emphasizing on savory taste, it will taste much better with certain dish.

On another article from tastingtable, they introduced Chicago restaurant serving martini drink using kombu seaweed instead of salt lines to add some umami punch.

Kombu seaweed pairs well with alcohol drinks and often served as dish to go with it. It’s not mixed in a cocktail but kombu seaweed does go well with alcohol drink and dish using kombu is often served with alcohol.

Japanese delight products are easy to make and delicious, perfect to go with alcohol too!

http://eater.com/archives/2012/08/31/savory-cocktails.php

Variations of mixed rice (Takikomi gohan)

Last time, we’ve talked about gastoronomic autumn and touched a little about mixed rice (takikomi gohan) but this time, we’ll talk about two of the most famous mixed rice during the fall season.

20051017_日本玩第三天_047_築地石橋妻商店岩手松茸_02 / macglee

Most well-known mixed rice during the fall is the matsutake rice. In the western culture, when people think about high priced mushroom with unique scent is truffle, but in Japan, it is matsutake mushroom. Matsutake is high priced delicacy during fall in Japan. It is considered to have really good scent for Japanese people and grows only under the pine tree and cannot be cultivated so it can be only enjoyed during fall and gets pricey as its all hand picked with limited season. As all the mushrooms do, umami will be increased when heated, so mixing rice in is the perfect way to enjoy umami and subtle but distinctive smell of matsutake. Since most expensive Japanese matsutake is sold around 2000 USD per Kg, it is not eaten too often or, substituted with imported matsutake which is about 1/10 of the price, or any other mushrooms and when matsutake is used to add some flagrance. Not to worry for residents in US, matsutake is sold in many markets during fall inUS too and with much cheaper price as it’s not exactly the same price.

Other fall delicacy includes chestnuts rice. As we talked last time, chestnut season is on the fall and usually when chestnuts rice is made, Japanese chestnut is used. Japanese chestnuts don’t have much sweetness in it so you can enjoy both sweetness of the rice, texture and mild sweetness of chestnuts.

There are lot more variation mixed rice such as sweet potato rice, chicken rice, fish rice, gingko nut rice, and many more. Each household and region has its own varieties since point of mixed rice is using fresh ingredients of the season and we can’t list all on here. Let us know if you want to know more and I can post up the recipes for it.

Recipe for matsutake rice (4 serving)

20070926 京都玩第四天 079 高島屋 第28回グルメのための味百選 松茸飯 / macglee

Matsutake          3 piece
Soy sauce          1 Tbl spoon
Rice                     3 cup
Water                  2 and 2/3 cup
Dashi kombu       2 pieces of kombu cut in 2inch long
Cooking sake       2 Tbl spoon
Salt                      1/2 Tea spoon

1.Wash the rice and put water and dashi kombu together.
2.Wipe dirt off from matsutake with a wet paper towel and thinly slice them.
3.Put thinly sliced matsutake, cooking sake and salt
4.Turn on the rice cooker.

Chestnuts rice (4 serving)

Rice with chestnut / Jun Seita

Chestnuts                          9oz
Rice                                   2 cup
Dashi kombu                     2 pieces of 2 inch size
Cooking sake                     1 Tbl spoon
Mirin                                 1 Tbl spoon
Salt                                    1 Tea spoon
Black sesame                     few sprinkle

1.Wash rice and leave it for 2 min to let it dry out
2.Soak chestnuts in tepid water for 10 min to soften the skin
3.Peel out dark brown shell from chestnuts.
4.Cut soft part into quarter piece and let it soak in the water for another 10 min
5.Put the rice in rice cooker and add dashi kombu, Mirin, cooking sake and salt then fill up the water till the rice cooker’s line that says 2cup then start the rice cooker
6.serve on the dish and sprinkle black sesame on top

Gastronomic autumn

Finally the temperatures are starting to drop and getting nicer going into the fall. In Japan, there are many different epithets for autumn season. Few of the famous ones are picnic for autumn, reading for autumn, artsy autumn, and appetite for autumn. I don’t know why we have so many different names just for one season while all the other seasons doesn’t have any but there are reasons why those terms are being used to describe fall.

Picnic for autumn is called so because many colored leaves and good weather with cool temperature to be having a picnic. Reading for autumn originated from famous Chinese poet. It said that fall nights are longer than the summer and cool weather is the best situation for reading a book. Art for autumn originated because many art galleries and art expo was held in this season. Sporting, obviously it’s because of perfect weather and humidity to be staying active outside, because no one wants to play sports under burning heat or freezing cold. It’s also because this is the season Tokyo summer Olympic was held even though it’s not summer anymore and now the day of Olympic is a national holiday in Japan.

Last but not the least; gastronomic autumn is one of most popular call for fall. Since Japan has clear distinction between each season, Japanese people have accommodated their culture and life style according to them. Fall is the season of rice harvest as well as many mushrooms, persimmon, chestnut, sweet potato and many other foods. These ingredients stored lots of nutrients and energy to survive winter and so is the human need to eat more to prepare for cold winter. Gastronomic autumn derived from its variety and taste of ingredients as well as stocking up for the coming winter.

Rice is the Japanese cuisines must have ingredients of all time and there is a recipe where you can enjoy all the goody ingredients from the fall. It’s called takikomi gohan(たきこみごはん)which is steamed rice with various vegetables and meat mixed in. It is food technique used in Japanese cuisine and somewhat similar to jambalaya and paella. Unlike those two dishes, Japanese Paella doesn’t need any preparation, just throw in all ingredients and turn the rice cooker on. Few benefits of cooking all the ingredients at once is that by mixing it during a boil, taste of the ingredients will soak into the rice, easy preparation, keeps your stomach full with just a one dish, can be eaten even when it gets cold, and it is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is considered as an autumn food due to its variety and tastiness of the rice itself on this season. As you throw in your kombu seaweed, umami will soak into the rice and brings up the umami of dish by a notch.

Mixed rice is quick and easy way to make a meal so please try some recipes. Many ingredients will go well with the rice.
Mixed rice is a technique of cooking rice with other foods in general but here is one recipe for mixed rice.

Mixed rice with assorted vegetables and kombu seaweed

[4 serving size]

Ingredients

  • Chicken breast – 200g
  • Deep fried bean curd – 2 slices
  • Carrot – 1/2
  • Shiitake mushroom – 3pcs
  • Burdock – 80g
  • Rice – 3 cup

[dashi stock]

  • Dashi kombu – 6g
  • Water – 600ml

[seasonings]

  • Cooking sake – 2 tbl spoon
  • Soy sauce – 4 table spoon
  • Cooking rice wine (mirin) – 2 tbl spoon

Preparation

  • Put dashi kombu in the water and keep it in there for 30 minutes
  • Wash the rice and keep it on a colander
  • Cut the chicken breast in to a dice size
  • Take off the stem from shiitake mushroom and thinly slice it.
  • Peel carrot and burdock and slice into a shred
  • Take out kombu from water and shredded them into pieces.
  • Cut fried bean curds into rectangles.

 Cooking

  • Throw everything into the rice cooker
  • Start the rice cooker. Once it’s done, mix all the rice to blend in all the tastes.