The Fifth Taste — In A Tube

The taste of "savory'' in a tube.

You’ve no doubt had the experience of trying something so irresistible that you wished it could be bottled and sold?

Laura Santtini, a British cook, has done essentially that with her #5 Umami Paste by capturing the delectable “fifth taste” and putting it into a tube.

As you know, sweet, salty, sour and bitter comprise the four basic tastes we experience on our palate. But more than a century ago, the Japanese discovered what they hail as the fifth taste, otherwise known as umami. It’s often described as “savory” tasting and reflected in ingredients such as tomatoes, cheese, anchovies, mushrooms, cured pork, aged beef and miso soup.

Santtini’s #5 Umami Paste created a sensation last year when it was released in the United Kingdom. This year, it’s finally available on our shores at Dean & DeLuca, where a 2.46-ounce tube is $6 or at ChefCentral for $5.99. For the best deal, Fresh & Easy stores (with locations in the South Bay), are featuring it at the special price of $3.49 until July 6. I recently had a chance to try a sample.

Squirt a little out and you’ll notice it resembles Romesco sauce.  It’s made from a mixture of tomato paste, garlic, anchovy paste, black olives, balsamic vinegar, dried porcinis, and Parmesan cheese — all ingredients high in umami.

The taste of umami in a convenient tube.

The taste is salty, briny, a little sweet from tomatoes and with a deep fermented quality. It almost tastes like a kicked-up Italian ragu — in thick, concentrated form.

It’s wonderful spread on bread with cheese, mixed with a little mayo to top a burger, stirred into pasta sauces, and tossed into stir-fries. It adds a bit more complexity and depth to whatever it touches.

One tablespoon has 25 calories and 320 mg of sodium.

If you already keep a tube of tomato paste or anchovy paste at the ready in your fridge, here’s one more to keep on hand to make up a true umami trifecta.

More: Read About the 100th Anniversary of Umami

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  • Thanks for sharing the links, I would love to try “the fifth taste.”


  • This sounds fanastic and I can imagine so many tasty uses for it!

  • Hmm, I love romesco so this sounds interesting, but I’d be so disappointing if it’s almost like ketchup! I believe ketchup is America’s umami. LOL

  • WOW! I can’t wait to try this!

  • A more widely available source for umami goodness is Marmite, the Australian/British yeast extract. I am still experimenting with dosage but it does what those others do, making meat taste meatier. It’s shelf-stable.

    Other roads to umami-land are soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

  • Moe: I finally had a chance to try Vegemite when I went to Australia last year. Talk about an umami powerhouse. It actually reminded me a lot of many fermented Asian sauces.

  • What would Pavlov think of my reaction to this post?

  • I can almost taste it in my mouth! I grew up in Japan and Umami is such a difficult term to try to translate… it’s like.. goodness and depth of savory taste. must get a tube!!

  • Now that’s the kind of thing I could almost eat from the tube. Is it wrong that I like eating tomato paste straight? 😛 Although I think perhaps given the sodium I should eat it like you suggest it 😛

  • Ooh, F&E just opened up in my neck of the woods! Another reason to go back… I’m interested in the european version of umami in a tube!

  • Whoa! Super cool. I’ll have to look for that in stores!

  • Looks like poo…

  • The “fifth taste” has been around in supermarkets since the ’40s. Good ol’ MSG. This paste stuff is just marketing hype.

  • I’ve stopped using tomato paste for a long time coz I use a combo of fresh, canned and passata if I was going to do a tomato based sauce. But this stuff off the tube looks pretty decadent and gourmet. Wouldn’t mind trying it again.

  • I’ve been hearing a lot about this stuff and am eager to give it a try myself. It really is marketing genius. Thanks for the post!

  • I have both a tube of tomato paste AND anchovy paste in my fridge. Guess I better do some research on “the fifth taste”….I’ve heard of it, but know little about it. Thanks for the heads up!

  • wow, I’ve never seen that before! good to know!

  • I just bought a tube and it is balanced and yummy.

  • mixed with mayo that would be how i would 1st explore with it.
    don’t you love when you have concentrated flavors that come in tube? saves hours of reduction doesn’t it? i think i have to go into boston to find this, it wouldn’t be anywhere on the cape.

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