There are, on average, about ten thousand taste buds on a human tongue, and the tongue can recognize five basic tastes,: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and Umami.
Umami was added to this list much later, coined in 1908. Kokumi is arguably a taste modifier.
- Umami describes a savory taste in foods like mushrooms, tomatoes, and aged cheeses, resulting from glutamate.
- Kokumi, a less-known taste sensation, enhances other flavors and adds mouthfeel, complexity, and richness to dishes.
- Both umami and kokumi contribute to the overall flavor profile of food, but umami is a distinct taste, while kokumi is a sensation that augments existing flavors.
Umami vs Kokumi
The difference between Umami and Kokumi is that Umami is a basic taste for which there are receptors on the human tongue,. In contrast, Kokumi is said to be a feeling associated with food rather than taste, literally translating to “rich taste”. The term Kokumi was coined almost 80 years later than Umami.
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Umami is one of the five basic tastes a human can taste. It is found in dried and fermented food the most.
It is caused to due to the taste buds responding to glutamate and nucleotides. The tongue has receptors specifically for Umami. Umami was scientifically discovered in Japan by Kikunae Ikeda.
Kokumi in Japanese translates to “rich taste”. It is characteristic of matured food items or items that have been cooked for a long time.
It is the background richness and complexity of food items whose flavour becomes more pronounced the longer they are cooked and, become more than just the sum of their ingredients.
|Parameters of Comparison||Umami||Kokumi|
|Meaning||Foods rich in Umami flavour include dried tomatoes, soy, broths, cooked meats, etc.||Kokumi is the roundness, complexity, and richness that some foods possess.|
|Discovery||Umami was discovered at the University of Tokyo in 1908.||It was also discovered in Japan but much later in 1989.|
|Foods||Umami is scientifically recognized as being distinct, and the tongue has specific receptors for it.||It is present in stews, fish sauce, garlic, and soups that have simmered for a long time.|
|Category||Umami is scientifically recognized as being distinct and the tongue has specific receptors for it.||Kokumi is the long-lasting and rich effect produced by the already existing tastes.|
|Biology||Umami is created due to glutamate and nucleotides, such as monosodium glutamate.||Kokumi is created due to peptides, amino acids, and glutathione.|
What is Umami?
Umami is the fifth taste that a human tongue can distinctly recognize. It is described as a savoury and delicious feeling, and its name has also been derived from the Japanese word Umai which translates to tasty.
It is caused due to nucleotides and glutamates that trigger umami receptors on the tongue.
Unlike other tastes that have receptors in specific tongue regions, Umami can be detected by most areas of the language and the mouth.
This is because most food substances contain Umami components,. Still, they have to be prepared in a specific way to be able to distinguish between the other tastes and Umami.
Ripe tomatoes, a wide variety of mushrooms, especially the shitake mushrooms, fish, seashells, fermented foods such as soy sauce, fish sauce, shrimp paste, and cured meats.
Seaweed is also very dominant in umami flavour, and frequently used in Japanese culture. Other cuisines with chief umami components are Korean, Italian, and Thai.
Umami is frequently seen as a sodium replacement because the components that make up the umami flavour are safer than sodium, which in high quantities is harmful and raises blood pressure.
Meanwhile, Umami is found in healthier options such as fish sauce, mushrooms, and fermented foods. Umami has a distinct mouth fullness, and tongue-coating sensation, and it causes salivation.
It lasts more than the other four basic tastes.
What is Kokumi?
Some people identify Kokumi as the sixth taste, but scientists regard it as a flavour enhancer and not a taste in itself because it does not classify as a distinct taste.
There are no receptors on the human tongue specifically for detecting the Kokumi flavour, and instead, the calcium receptors are affected by Kokumi substances.
The feeling of kokumi is described as a more prosperous and deeper feeling to the other tastes,. It enhances both retention and natural flavour of the basic flavours, namely sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and Umami.
The kokumi essence was first isolated as a peptide name glutathione from garlic. Later, experiments also proved the existence of peptides and amino acids similar to glutathione in yeast extract.
These chemical substances react a certain way to create a feeling of mouth fullness and fuller flavours in food.
Kokumi is also very dominant in Japanese cuisine and is found in foods such as soy, fermented foods, long-boiling broths, and roasted meats.
Kokumi is being researched thoroughly, and more and more substances that can produce kokumi are being found as the same dish made with kokumi is much better than
without kokumi, as there is a continuity of flavour produced by kokumi that cannot be replicated.
Artificial isolations of kokumi have also been produced to add to dishes and enhance their flavour.
Main Differences Between Umami and Kokumi
- Umami is a distinct taste, whereas Kokumi is the feeling of enhancement of other tastes and their long-lasting flavour.
- The human tongue has receptors for specifically detecting Umami, whereas there are no such receptors for kokumi.
- Umami is caused by chemicals known as glutamates and nucleotides naturally present in food whereas Kokumi is caused by chemicals known as peptides.
- Umami was discovered much earlier than Kokumi because of its distinct flavour profile, whereas kokumi was coined much later upon strenuous culinary research.
- The kokumi sensation works as an appetite enhancer as well because of its complexity and enhancement of other tastes, whereas Umami does not.
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.