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The Ultimate Flavoring Secret





for culinary insiders

K Dear Friends,

This issue is all about a very tasty flavor secret that may be news to you: umami. Personally, I’ve known about it all my life. In New York, where I come from, people have been talking about it forever. The highest praise you can give a dish is, “Ooh, Mommy, that’s good!” But seriously, I’ve been fascinated by umami—the savory “fifth taste”—since the 1980s, when I remember first seeing the term on our taste panel evaluation forms: “Is the product’s umami level high, just right, or not enough?” Because Kikkoman Soy Sauce is such an amazing source of umami, we’ve been working and playing with this magical taste for decades. And now we want to share it with you. Whether you add umami-rich ingredients to your foods or use umami-enhancing techniques, you’ll discover a world of better, fuller, more intense flavor. My own favorite umami secret: everything is caramelizing: veggies, sausages, toasted crusty bread, you name it. I could never eat raw, crunchy onions just tossed in a dish, and for a long time I really thought I hated them. But once I started slowly cooking them till they’re golden brown and bursting with umami, I’m all about onions. My top three favorite umami foods? Pizza, pizza and pizza! For me, it’s the powerhouse umami combo: roasted tomatoes, aged cheese and a yeast crust. Add mushrooms and some pepperoni, and that’s a full-on umami explosion in every bite. What about you? Have you discovered any surprising ways to kick up the umami factor in your cooking? We’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation on our Facebook page, or drop me a line. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this edition of the K. Ooh, Mommy! There’s some good eating in here!

Helen Roberts Manager of Culinary Development and Public Relations

INSIDE Inside F E AT U R E S The Umami Arsenal Universal Umami: A Cook’s Tour SIDEBARS Understanding Umami Tasting Is Believing Lighten Up with Umami Kids Love Umami 2


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RECIPES Umami-Crusted Pork Roast Toasted Sesame Cream Cheese Spread Spaghetti & Meatballs Chocolate Lava Cakes PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT Quick & Easy Marinades

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hink about the tongue-coating richness of reduced meat stock, the intensity of Parmesan cheese, the concentrated flavor of sautéed mushrooms or tomato sauce and the complex, sweet-savory depth of naturally brewed Kikkoman Soy Sauce. What do all of these foods have in common? One word: umami. So what is umami? It’s a Japanese word that has become a universal term for the “fifth taste.” Most people tend to think of sweet, sour, salty and bitter as the four tastes we perceive in food. Umami is that deliciously meaty, savory or “brothy” fifth taste that’s a bit harder to pin down than the other four but is unmistakable when you taste it. The common denominator of any food or ingredient that’s rich in umami is a high concentration of certain amino acids—often the result of fermentation or reduction. But it’s what these foods do to other foods that is truly remarkable. Umami ingredients boost flavor, making foods taste richer, more intense and more fully rounded.

The Man Behind Umami Literally translated as “deliciousness,” umami was discovered by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, a chemistry professor at Tokyo Imperial University, in 1908. While investigating the distinct taste of dashi, a Japanese soup base, Dr. Ikeda found that its flavor was unlike that of any of the basic four tastes. He realized that this flavor was coming from the main ingredient of the soup base, a seaweed called Laminaria japonica. From there, Dr. Ikeda did a series of experiments and found that glutamate was the amino acid responsible for this unique fifth taste and coined the word umami—by combining umai (delicious) and mi (taste)—to describe it.

Kikkoman Soy Sauce: Umami Made Easy The more you know about umami, the tastier you can make just about anything. The key to increasing the umami factor is simply to have a few umami-rich staples on hand. And the hands-down most reliable and versatile of these is Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Soy sauce is one of the world’s oldest umami ingredients. It’s one of the main reasons Asian foods have such great flavor. But here’s the thing: Think beyond Asian, and you’ll discover that the umami in just a small amount of soy sauce can give virtually any dish a flavor boost—without necessarily adding a soy sauce or Asian flavor.

Tasting Is Believing Want to experience umami firsthand? Try this: Heat 2 cups of chicken or beef broth and divide it between two small bowls. To one bowl, add a splash (start with as little as ¼ teaspoon) of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Taste the broth with no soy sauce. Then taste the broth with Kikkoman. You won’t taste soy sauce. Instead, you’ll notice that the soy sauce–enriched broth has a meatier, richer, slightly sweeter flavor. That’s the umami effect the soy sauce is having on the flavors that were already in the broth. Next try a little mayo and then taste it again with a few drops of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. You’ll experience the same kind of richer, more savory flavor. 4

That’s why Kikkoman Soy Sauce works in everything from French onion soup to fajitas. It’s a natural flavor enhancer that brings out the flavors of other foods. It can even be used to boost the flavor of sweet foods, like chocolate and caramel. The reason Kikkoman works so well as an umami enhancer is that it’s naturally brewed using a centuries-old fermentation process that’s much like making a fine wine or cheese. That process makes Kikkoman both delicate in flavor and rich in naturally occurring glutamic acids. A non-brewed or chemically synthesized soy sauce won’t work in the same way. It will be harsh and overpowering, so it will mask other flavors rather than enhancing them.

The Umami Arsenal Keep these ingredients in your kitchen to add instant umami to your cooking. Parmesan and other aged cheeses: Like Kikkoman Soy Sauce, aged cheeses get their savory flavor from a natural fermentation and aging process. Tomatoes: Tomatoes are naturally rich in umami, and the more concentrated they are (think tomato sauce, ketchup and dried tomatoes), the more umami they deliver. Now you know why spaghetti with red sauce and Parmesan tastes so good! Dried mushrooms: Look for darker varieties, such as shiitakes or portobellos, which tend to have the most umami. Rehydrate them by soaking them in warm water, and then add them to soups and sauces; or pulverize them in a spice grinder and use this magical flavor powder to season meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables before roasting or grilling. Anchovies: Anchovies and anchovy paste are what give Caesar dressing and Worcestershire sauce their umami punch. They’re a great way to add big umami flavor to dressings, dips, sauces and pasta dishes. Olives, capers and pickles: Brined and pickled foods are umami powerhouses. Even if you’re cooking for people who think they don’t like them, try chopping or pulverizing them and blending them into the sauce. Like anchovies, their distinctive flavor will mysteriously disappear, and their umami will intensify the other ingredients. 5

Universal Umami:

A Cook’s Tour

Whether you’re in the middle of the United States or across the world in Europe or Asia, umami-packed dishes are everywhere. Here’s a sampling from around the world.

United States Cheeseburgers: With beef and cheese as their starring ingredients, cheeseburgers are umami superstars. For added umami synergy, use Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce mixed in your meat before putting it on the grill. And for over-the-top umami, layer your cheeseburger with sautéed onions and mushrooms.

France French onion soup: With umami ingredients like beef stock, sautéed onions, garlic and Swiss Gruyère cheese, it’s no wonder that French onion soup is so mouthwatering. For even more savory flavor, add a dash of Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce. Niçoise salad: This classic bistro salad gets serious umami from tuna, ripe red tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies. Potato gratin: Umami-rich potatoes, garlic and Gruyère cheese make this dish the perfect accompaniment to savory meat dishes. For a lighter version, make it with Kikkoman Pearl Original Organic Soymilk instead of cream.

Meatloaf: For an umami-intense version, combine ground beef, Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs, Kikkoman Katsu Sauce, onion, green onion and eggs. Brush the top with umami-rich ketchup mixed with a little Kikkoman Soy Sauce or Teriyaki Sauce before baking. Cream of mushroom soup: To pump up the savory flavor of this coldweather classic, try adding a little Kikkoman Soy Sauce. And if you’re lactose intolerant, or looking to lighten things up a bit, use Kikkoman Pearl Original Organic Soymilk in place of cream.

Latin America Sofrito: Thoughout the Caribbean, Latin America and Spain, this umamifilled blend of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro is used as a flavor foundation for beans, rice, stews and more. Chimichurri: In Argentina, beef is king, and chimichurri is the perfect sauce to give it an umami kick. To make it, mix olive oil, Kikkoman Rice Vinegar, chopped parsley, garlic and oregano in a blender or food processor. Use it as marinade for beef, and reserve some to serve as a bright, fresh, umami-rich table sauce.

Japan Sushi: One of the world’s most popular Japanese dishes, sushi is umami at its best. It’s a natural partner to Kikkoman Soy Sauce—and if you like it with a creamy-spicy kick, add some Kikkoman Wasabi Sauce. Miso soup: Made with dashi—the Japanese soup base that led to the discovery of umami—this classic soup also includes umami-rich konbu (kelp), mushrooms and soy sauce.

Italy Parmigiano-Reggiano: The king of Italian cheeses adds umami depth to pasta, polenta, pizza, risotto and soups. Parmigiano-Reggiano (as well as aged Pecorino and Grana) also pairs well with fruits like apples, pears and figs. Prosciutto-wrapped melon: A great example of umami synergy, this simple Italian appetizer is easy to make. Wrap slices of cantaloupe or honeydew with thinly sliced prosciutto. If you like, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar or Kikkoman Unagi Sushi Sauce. Risotto: Slowly simmering rice in broth develops its natural starches, giving it a creamy texture. The vegetables, cheeses, meats or seafood added along the way contribute plenty of umami. For even more umami goodness, add a little Kikkoman Soy Sauce early in the cooking process. Pasta puttanesca: The umami-est of pasta dishes, with umami in virtually every ingredient—tomatoes, capers and anchovies.

Morocco Preserved lemons: The rind of lemons brined in salt is the ingredient that gives much of Morocco’s food—especially the slow-cooked tagines and stews—its intense, bright umami.



Winter is in full swing, and that means heartier dishes are on the dinner table. If you’re looking for ways to cut the fat and sodium from these dishes without sacrificing flavor, think umami. You’ll discover that with a little help from the right umami ingredients, you can easily add savory “deliciousness” as you lighten up your cooking. Garlic: One of the world’s most popular seasonings, garlic is loaded with umami. Add golden sautéed garlic to vegetables like broccoli or green beans to wake up their flavor. Or for a quick and easy umami-packed marinade for chicken, just combine 4 chopped garlic cloves with ½ cup of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Tomatoes: When you have canned, fresh or dried tomatoes on hand, the umami possibilities are endless. For a light, flavorful pasta dish, sauté halved cherry tomatoes with olive oil, basil, garlic and a dash of Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Toss with your favorite cooked pasta and top with grated Parmesan. Onions: Onions are a flavor foundation in cooking worldwide. You can use their savory flavor to enhance marinades, basting sauces and dips. Caramelize them slowly in a heavy skillet or slow-cooker with a bit of soy sauce for a versatile “umami bomb” you can add to just about anything. For a low-fat sauce that’s full of umami goodness, try Kikkoman Teriyaki Takumi-Garlic & Green Onion. Vegetables: Corn and eggplant are two vegetables naturally rich in umami. After steaming vegetables like broccoli, green beans or zucchini, toss them in a little bit of melted butter and add a dash of Kikkoman Soy Sauce or Ponzu for extra savory flavor. Beef: You know that mouthwatering flavor you get when you taste a longsimmered beef stew? That’s umami. Beef is among the most umami-packed foods to begin with. And when you marinate lean beef with other umami-rich ingredients, like Kikkoman Roasted Garlic Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce, you’ll be upping the flavor ante even more, which means you can serve a moderate portion size that will still deliver big-time satisfaction. Shellfish: Clams, scallops, oysters and mussels all have intense umami. That’s why Kikkoman Oyster Sauce (made with natural oyster liquor) is such a great umami booster. Try marinating shrimp or scallops in Kikkoman Lime Ponzu, our citrus-infused soy sauce. You’ll experience the delicious effect of “umami synergy” as the umami in the shellfish meets the umami in the Ponzu and the two play off each other in flavorful harmony. Bacon: If you ever wondered why everything’s better with bacon, the answer is, of course, umami, which is brought out by the curing process. Ham, prosciutto and other cured pork products are also great sources of umami.

product spotlight

Lighten Up with Umami

Quick & Easy Marinades: Umami in Minutes With umami-rich Kikkoman Soy Sauce as their main ingredient, our Quick & Easy Marinades are ready to use right from the bottle, eliminating the need to select, chop, measure and mix ingredients. They come in four delicious varieties: Roasted Garlic & Herbs, Toasted Sesame, Honey & Mustard and Gourmet Teriyaki—all perfectly blended and balanced to penetrate foods quickly, providing a deep, rich flavor and umami in just 20 minutes. Whether you’re using the oven, the broiler or the grill, the rich, thick consistency of these sauces makes them ideal for basting, too. Try them with chicken, seafood, steaks, chops, burgers or veggies.

Kids Love Umami Kids may not know what umami is, but they love it. How else can you explain the runaway popularity of kid-pleasing dishes like mac ‘n’ cheese, burgers and pizza? You can leverage the power of umami as a “stealth health” strategy to get kids to eat food that’s better for them. Ponzu Power: Sprinkle Kikkoman Lemon or Lime Ponzu on vegetables to give them an extra hit of flavor. Or make a quick dip with mayo and Ponzu to serve with carrots, tomatoes and other veggies. Sweet Side: For a flavor-packed, kid-friendly vegetable trio, toss slices of sweet potatoes, russet potatoes and carrots in Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce and a little olive oil. If you like, you can crank up the crunch by coating the veggies in Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs, Italian herbs and garlic powder. Glaze for Days: A sweet soy glaze turns vegetables like broccoli, carrots and green beans into a treat kids love. Combine Kikkoman Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce, butter, light brown sugar and a pinch of ground nutmeg in a saucepan and cook for two minutes. Drizzle over steamed or roasted vegetables. Better Bisque: With umami-packed ripe tomatoes as its signature ingredient, tomato bisque becomes even more mouthwatering when you add a dash of Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce to it. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and baby carrots, and you’ve got a perfect storm of umami and enjoyment.


for culinary insiders WINTER 2013

K Magazine is a journal of tastes, techniques and trends for food enthusiasts, published twice a year by KIKKOMAN SALES USA, INC. To subscribe or submit material for consideration, visit If you’d like to stop receiving K Magazine, please let us know at 415-956-7750

KIKKOMAN SALES USA, INC. 50 California Street, Suite 3600 San Francisco, CA 94111 ©2012 KIKKOMAN SALES USA, INC.







for culinary insiders

for culinary insiders WINTER 2013


4- to 6-pound roast pork shoulder cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce cup Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs cup crushed garlic cup chopped fresh rosemary

Place roast in large plastic bag. Combine soy sauce, bread crumbs, garlic and rosemary into a thick paste. Rub the paste all over the roast. Press the air out of the bag, tie top securely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or longer. Remove meat from bag. Place meat in a roasting pan, cover with foil and bake in 375° oven for 40 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature reaches 175°. Bake uncovered for at least 10 minutes to form a crisp crust. Makes 15 servings

1 pound spaghetti 1¼ pounds ground beef 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs 1 tablespoon Kikkoman Soy Sauce 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated & divided 4 cloves garlic, minced & divided 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 small onion, finely diced 2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes 1 tablespoon dried oregano Cook spaghetti according to package directions, rinse and drain. Combine ground beef, eggs, panko, soy sauce and ½ cup Parmesan cheese and 2 cloves of garlic in a large bowl; shape into 1½-inchsized meatballs. Bake the meatballs at 350° on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10–12 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a deep skillet, add the oil, garlic and onions and sauté for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft. Add tomatoes and the remaining garlic, cheese and oregano. Makes 8 servings





for culinary insiders

cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce 8-oz package cream cheese teaspoons sesame seed, toasted Crackers or raw vegetables

Pour soy sauce over cream cheese block, turning over several times to coat all sides. Refrigerate 2 hours, turning over often. Remove and roll in sesame seed. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with crackers and vegetables. Makes 4 servings

for culinary insiders WINTER 2013

CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKES 1½ sticks butter, divided 1 cup chocolate chips 1 teaspoon Kikkoman Soy Sauce ½ cup unsifted flour 1½ 3 cups confectioners’ sugar 6 eggs, separated 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Grease 6 ramekins with butter, and preheat the oven to 425°. Melt chocolate chips, butter and soy sauce together in the microwave for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and add flour and sugar. Combine 3 whole eggs with 3 additional egg yolks, blending well into the chocolate mixture. Pour into 6 ramekins; place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. (Loosen the edges with a knife and invert onto dessert plates; the center will be runny.) Makes 6 servings

Umami the Ultimate Flavoring Secret  
Umami the Ultimate Flavoring Secret  

This issue is all about a very tasty flavor secret that may be news to you: umami. Personally, I’ve known about it all my life. In New York,...