What is Kokumi: The Latest Taste Sensation?

kokumi

Have you ever noticed how the wine kept on your cupboard shelf for the last five years tastes much better than the bottle you bought a few days ago? It’s amazing, right?. But what is the reason for this to happen?

The reason for this difference between the two tastes is kokumi. The taste of wine is enriched and gets better with age. This is the kokumi sensation that enhances the wine’s flavor to make it a perfect treat for your candlelight dinner.

Have you ever wondered how the perfect ingredients combined with the specific type of prepared food (be it aged, fermented, sprouted, ripened, etc.)? Makes the taste of the regular food so much tastier?

Every form of food imparts a unique, specific taste to the food. The above example of wine is perfect for explaining this phenomenon.

We will check out more information related to this concept while referring to kokumi in detail, with a quick glimpse of its relation with umami flavor as well in this particular article.

What Is Kokumi?

You must’ve known about the five tastes sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. These are the five primary flavors that are recognized as “tastes”. Out of the five, umami flavor is the most recent one that has been discovered. We will take an appearance at what is an umami flavor in the next session, but for now, let’s concentrate on kokumi.

So, then, what is kokumi? Is it also a taste like the ones mentioned above? Or is it just a flavor? Some even claim it to be the sixth taste recognized by humans, so is it?

These are some of the questions asked many times, increasing curiosity and confusion among foodies worldwide. So, let’s achieve this once and for all.

Coming directly to the point, kokumi is not a taste.

Nor is it just a flavor.

In point of fact, kokumi is the taste modifier or the taste enhancer, as is it called popularly. By taste enhancer, we mean to say, it releases out the perfect flavor of your dish, improving the umami taste.

In simple terms, the kokumi flavor is identified as an umami taste enhancer. 

Besides enhancing the umami taste, kokumi is also known for its role in improving the taste of sweet taste.

Interestingly, kokumi doesn’t have a specific taste; it still manages to make the food much tastier and more flavorful.

Thus, we can conclude that kokumi is the taste sensation you may never resist.

What I think of it is that kokumi is the taste of, or, sense of richness. It brings out the delicious aroma of the dish, making you love your favorite dish even more.

Discovery of Kokumi

It all began in the immediate 1980s when the specific and unique onions and garlic tastes were being tested. These two foods have a strong flavor, which, when added to the dish, even in little amounts, makes the dish taste incredibly delicious.

Of course, till then, a Japanese chemist had already discovered umami flavor in 1908. But, the taste of onion and garlic didn’t resemble the umami, or for that matter, any of the other known flavor’s, which has a meaty broth like the savory taste. So, a need to identify and assign a taste to such foods was a priority for the then scientists. 

After a series of testing’s and research, the unique flavor was discovered to be kokumi, and the taste was assigned to the calcium-sensing receptors. These receptors are well-known as kokumi substances.

These substances incite the cells’ calcium concentrations, activating the taste cells integrated into the brain through the nervous system, thus developing the kokumi sensation.

What Is the Relation Between Kokumi And Umami?

The reason for comparing both umami and kokumi is that they are generally mistaken for each other.

As we have seen above, kokumi isn’t the sixth taste, but it is the taste modifier of the 5th taste umami.

Let’s get a brief understanding of umami and then continue with the comparison.

Umami is the savory, meaty broth-like taste, which was discovered as late as the 20th century, that is, 1908, which is recognized as the 5th taste and sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.

As a Japanese chemist discovered this taste, it was named “umami,” which means delicious flavor or savory taste.

People taste umami due to the glutamates present in the foods that give umami taste. These glutamates are responded to by the taste receptors that are present in our taste buds.

Usually, the foods that contain glutamic acid or glutamates give out umami flavor. For instance, foods like tomato, aged cheese, soy products, mushrooms, green tea, meats like bacon, pork give out umami flavor.

Interestingly, human breast milk also has a unique umami flavor, which is essential for newborn digestion.

In addition to this, umami is known for its many more beneficial roles in human health and smooth functioning of human bodily functions.

Thus, we have understood the basics of umami. Let’s now try to understand the significance of kokumi, with reference to its comparison with umami. 

Significance of Kokumi: Comparing Umami and Kokumi

Firstly, umami gives a meaty flavor to the dish, while kokumi gives a sense of richness to the food.

Umami is recognized as a taste, whereas kokumi plays a vital role as a taste modifier.

Umami gives out a pleasant savory taste, while kokumi gives depth to the dish in a decadent manner and harmonizes the flavors of all the ingredients added to the plate.

Both umami and kokumi give out an after taste that lasts for a longer time.

Umami is released after any food containing amino acid is consumed. The amino acids glutamate and ribonucleotides such as insinuate and guanylate are the sources. Simultaneously, the kokumi sensation is due to chemical compounds that include calcium, protamine, glutathione, and l-histidine.

Coming to another fantastic fact, every taste is an indicator of some of the other source or elements in the foods, for instance; salty taste indicates the presence of minerals, bitter taste suggests the presence of poison, sour taste indicates the presence of acids, while sweet taste suggests the presence of carbohydrates and glucose.

Likewise, both umami and kokumi have their sources of amino acids. Both of them are indicators of the presence of amino acids and proteins in foods.

Takeaway

Both umami and kokumi are Japanese terms that are popularizing fast in the current food universe and foodies around the world. This may be because of the craze of Asian foods in western markets and the demand for the specific seasonings they own.

Kokumi and umami both have been the main reason for this popularity.

Umami is an actual taste, while kokumi is the taste modifier or taste sensation of the umami taste.

We get umami taste due to the glutamates that are present in the foods. At the same time, kokumi is released due to the chemical compounds that include calcium, protamine, glutathione, and l-histidine.

Whatever the reasons, the only functions of both of them, especially kokumi, are that they are essential to enhance the overall dish’s flavor and make the food tastier than ever.