Umami Broth

What exactly is, umami?

Is umami the fifth taste?  Bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and ... savoury?  Sort of.  Umami is a Japanese word meaning good tasting, however, it has come to be associated with certain foods that have naturally high concentrations of particular amino acids called glutamates, such as fermented soy products, shellfish, small fish (mackerel, sardines, anchovies), tomatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots, seaweed, shitake mushrooms, parmesan cheese, beef, pork, chicken and turkey, to name a few.  These specific glutamates excite the taste buds, which in turn, tell your brain that you’re eating something delicious and satisfying.  Umami has a pleasant, savoury taste that, for the most part, goes unnoticed in the foods you’re eating.  These amino acids are responsible for the seasoning that everyone loves to hate, but loves to taste - monosodium glutamate.  Ever felt the guilty pleasure of eating cheese-flavoured tortilla chips, ranch dressing, canned tomato soup, Lizano sauce, French onion dip, Accent seasoning, Maggi sauce, instant ramen noodles?  An unbelievable array of commercially processed prepared, frozen, canned, and restaurant foods have been using MSG since long before we were born.  And just imagine potato chips - potatoes are naturally high in glutamate and so is that cheese flavoured seasoning.  Umami unleashed!  No wonder it’s hard to eat just one.  No need to panic, however.  MSG is most often used in very low levels with very few documented cases of negative effect - and I’m speaking as a person who has had a food sensitivity to MSG all her life.  Now hand me that bag of sour cream & onion potato chips!

These two broths are excellent on their own or make a nice base for other soups.  They are satisfying and fulfilling when you’re feeling a under the weather or are looking for clear fluid recipes.  The important point is to use big pieces and chunks of ingredients to flavour the broth, so that they can be strained out easily.

Beef Broth - Umami Style

  • 1 carton any-old-brand beef broth
  • 1 green onion, cut in half
  • 3 thick slices fresh ginger
  • 4 slices dried shitake mushroom
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 whole lime leaves
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • dash soya sauce, to taste
  • dash fish sauce

Chicken Broth - Umami Style

  • 1 carton any-old-brand chicken broth
  • 1 green onion, cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, thickly sliced
  • 4 slices dried shitake mushroom
  • 3 whole dried bay leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary or 1 tsp dried leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, if available
  • dash soya sauce, to taste
  • dash fish sauce

In a sauce pan over low heat, simmer all ingredients for 30 minutes to infuse the broth but not boil it off.  Strain broth through a fine mesh sieve and serve immediately, or cool in a shallow bowl and keep in the fridge for up to several days.  It can also be frozen once cold.


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