Happy new year! It’s that time when we’re all trying to stick to our new year’s resolutions and get healthy or recover after over-indulgence during the holiday season…
So today I’m sharing with you my favourite tool in healthy cooking: Umami.
What is umami?
The word ‘umami’ comes from the Japanese for ‘delicious’ or ‘yummy’ and is used regularly in Japan. It’s known as the ‘fifth taste’ and is notoriously difficult to define, since it doesn’t fall into the bitter, sweet, salty or sour categories. Some describe it as a ‘savouriness’.
Each taste has a chemical linked to them, which makes them taste the way they do and umami represents the taste of glutamate (an amino acid) and nucleotides, including guanosine monophosphate (GMP) and inosine monophosphate (IMP).
There are many foods that contain the key components of umami and Japanese cuisine knows how to use these flavours for full effect. Using foods such as soy sauce and other fermented foods, kombu (seaweed) and shiitake mushrooms, particularly dried, are all excellent ways to bring that umami flavour to a dish.
My core Japanese cooking ingredients include saki, soy sauce, miso and mirin – all of which add umami to my recipes!
Umami & healthy eating
A lot of people associate healthy eating, particularly low-salt and low-fat diets, with dull, bland tasting food. This is where umami comes in very useful, as you can imagine.
Some call it a ‘natural MSG’ which adds to the overall enjoyment of your food and not only makes your meals more delicious but also allows you to feel satisfied, even after a calorie-controlled meal with less fat and salt.
Koji is rice fermented with with a culture called Aspergillus oryzae and it’s used to make many popular Japanese foods, such as soy sauce, miso and sake.
In today’s recipe, I’ve used koji to make this natural seasoning that can be used in place of regular salt.
It’s an incredible way to bring out the flavours and umami from your food and also allows you to use less salt. Not only that but it also helps break down your food, aids digestion and is filled with probiotics, vitamins and minerals.
I like to use it for marinades, dressings, stews, soups, roasts and all kinds of recipes. It’s not just a way to add saltiness but it’s just a great way to give your food a boost of umami flavour and take it to a new level of deliciousness!
You can find koji online or from The Japan Centre
“Shio-kouji” – Umami salt
Ingredients & Kit
A glass or plastic container to store the Koji Salt
Sea Salt 35g
Combine the Kouji and salt, mixing it together thoroughly. Then put the mixture into the container and pour over the water. Mix together well with a spoon.
You can keep it at room temperature for 2 weeks. Every other day give the mixture a stir.
You can use it as a normal salt for any cooking or as a simple marinade for fish or meat before cooking. It makes meat lovely and tender.
Upcoming Events & Classes
21st February 2016: Miso Making Workshop
Learn how to make home-made Miso this February! The class will show you how to experiment at home with different strengths and varieties of Miso, that you can introduce to your cookery for a fuller umami flavour. This workshop will teach you which ingredients to use and the basics of the fermentation process. Miso Class Details and Bookings
Late Availability – Sat 21st Jan, 11am Ramen Class: Due to a cancellation I have two spaces for this Saturday’s Ramen Class – Drop me a line if you’d like to join us for Ramen heaven!
Let’s Roll at Vallebona! – Fri 3rd Feb 11:30am : Come along to a special Let’s Roll sushi class at the wonderful Table @ Vallebona. This class will be a chance to learn to roll sushi alongside wine & sake tasting courtesy of Vallebona.