What is Umami?
There is a food stuff that has been the epitome of umami for 2500 years. That food stuff is called koji and if you enjoy some Chinese, Korean or Japanese cuisine you will be familiar with its allure by just a mention. Before embarking on this leg of the koji journey, I'll first explain what umami is.
Umami is the name of what is now recognized as the fifth taste after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami is described as savoury or meaty and causes salivation and is thought to be caused by glutamate (or glutamic acid). Glutamate is found in many foods, including vegetables such as ripe tomatoes and mushrooms, but also in meats. Although fresh/raw foods do contain glutamate, the intensity of umami is more pronounced if two or more rich sources of umami foods are combined together or if the foods are processed/cooked. Boiling, roasting, steaming, salting, smoking, dehydrating, and aging will bring out the umami flavours in food - think sundried tomatoes, chicken broth, or smoked oysters. Fermenting or culturing is another method of emphasizing or drawing out the taste of umami - think Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar, or Proscuitto. A few other notable fermented foods containing high amounts of glutamate are soy sauce, tamari, sake, amazake, and miso. What makes these traditional Asian foodstuffs so spectacular is that they all share a common foodstuff - they are all fermented with the culture of koji.
Over the summer I was fortunate to participate in the creation of a new public television show in the St. Thomas area called We Are St. Thomas - Elgin. The show focuses on how we can all best help integrate immigrants into our communities while celebrating the diversity. Each episode is broken into three parts, the first and second showcasing a service in the community that is available to newcomers and a local business run by a newcomer. The two segments are hosted by Paul Jenkins. The third part of the show is culinary focused (hosted by myself) where a local immigrant prepares a dish from his or her native country.
The new television show on the local Rogers network was launched and celebrated at GCW Kitchens and Cabinetry on November 17, 2015. This show is a partnership between Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board, Rogers, and St. Thomas Elgin Local Immigration Partnership, funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The 3rd episode is airing currently on Rogers TV in St. Thomas. Plans are in the works to air the show in the Eastern part of the county through a partnership with Eastlink. A total of 6 episodes was filmed in 2015 with a second season planned for 2016.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.