The Fifth Taste — 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 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.