Long before umami was discovered, people had been utilizing umami-rich products in their cooking. They didn’t know about glutamate, inosinate, or guanylate and those foods prepared with kombu tasted rich in flavor.
All over the world, people from different countries, regions and cultures had their own secret weapon when it came to producing flavors in cooking, and umami was one of them.
In the west, traditional ingredients that are rich in umami include bacon, salted anchovy, sauerkraut, etc. Nearer to the east, we have shoyu (soy sauce) and fermented soybean products like Natto and Miso, in Thailand, Nam Pla, Thai fish sauce, or Belacan Prawn paste, and in Japan, Katsuobushi, and of course, Kombu.
Besides sweetness, umami is one of the five flavors we crave. Our bodies are wired to crave sweetness as it provides energy and so many of us are sugar addicts, a topic for another time. Likewise, the savoriness of umami is at the forefront of your taste sensory system.
In today’s society, our intake of salt is naturally high due to the wide availability of convenience and fast food. By now, no one need to tell you that prolonged consumption of high-sodium food will lead to health problems .
The fact that seaweed is naturally salty is a bonus and unlike the added and processed salts used in fast foods and in many restaurants. Seaweed draws an extraordinary wealth of mineral elements from the sea that can account for up to 36% of its dry mass.
The mineral macro-nutrients include sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus; the micro-nutrients include iodine, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, molybdenum, fluoride, manganese, boron, nickel and cobalt.
Try to use kombu in your kitchen as much as possible but be aware the finest are very tough to acquire due to limited supply.
Never forget, our palate loves umami because it sends a good message; it’s meat and protein for body growth and repair.