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Adventures in Ramen #3: Umami

The 3 pillars of umami are three different amino acids that combine to give a new flavor. Amino acids exist in our body already and this is why it’s thought that when the acids combine in the food they are welcomed into the body. That certain ‘something’ that makes it all kick.

The secret to making everything taste amazing is... chicken heads and pork bones! Yes it's true.

So about the acids... they are:

  • Glutamine acid

  • Inosinic acid

  • Guanylic acid

These acids exist in various foods so combining them will give us the umami we’re after.

Gulatimine acid -----> kumbu -----> chicken

Inosinic acid -----> katsuboushi (dry bonito flakes) -----> chicken/pork

Guanylic acid -----> dry shiitake -----> pork

The common description for umami is savory but many people describe it as being sweet as well. When all the right savory elements come together it creates sweetness in the same way a roast tomato or pork butt can be sweet after appropriate amounts of heat have been added to them.

The Japanese sometimes short cut this by adding monosodium glutamate or MSG as the famous flavor enhancer that is frowned upon in many Western countries. The Japanese love MSG and it’s not uncommon to be served a side serving of MSG just like salt to add to already umami rich bowl of ramen. Many ramen chains probably include it in the broth so you may not know you have eaten it. Once you make ramen by yourself and achieve umami naturally you will never reach need the shortcut again. Or you might if you’re really lazy and don’t give a fuck.

Ok theory is over, let's start making broth!

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