Umami & Kimchi.

So what do these two funky words mean?

Besides the names of my future kittens..

They are similar words in sound but have different meanings.

Hadley and I have been exploring, (grocery) shopping and experimenting in the kitchen.  We ran into both umami AND kimchi while doing these things. Okay I’ll stop the suspense now..


Umami is the 5th taste. It literally means ‘yummy’ in Japanese.

1/Sweet 2/Sour 3/Bitter 4/Salty and 5/Umami

Right?! My mind was blown as well.  What is an ‘umami’ taste?  I’ll let the excerpt from an NPR story do the telling:

But what was it? Being a chemist, Ikeda could find out. He knew what he was tasting was, as he wrote, "common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but… not one of the four well-known tastes." Ikeda went into his lab and found the secret ingredient. He wrote in a journal for the Chemical Society of Tokyo that it was glutamic acid, but he decided to rename it. He called it "umami," which means "delicious" or "yummy" in Japanese.
Glutamate is found in most living things, but when they die, when organic matter breaks down, the glutamate molecule breaks apart. This can happen on a stove when you cook meat, over time when you age a parmesan cheese, by fermentation as in soy sauce or under the sun as a tomato ripens. When glutamate becomes L-glutamate, that's when things get "delicious." L-glutamate, said Ikeda, is a fifth taste.

So there you have it. Umami; the fifth taste, the yummy flavor in certain dishes.  What has umami that Hadley and I have been eating lots of lately?

SEAWEED. Yes like the plants that grow in the ocean.  There are three species that I’ve been munching on/cooking with lately..

Dulse, Kombu & Nori.

Dulse is a snacky seaweed, as is Nori, but Kombu is a bit tougher (it is a type of kelp.. so naturally thicker and tends to grow in areas of higher wave action.. hence its toughness).

Kombu can be used when making soups – I used it in a lentil stew and it made a nice broth, and then after it had been boiled and soaking in hot water for a while, it was perfectly snackable!  Seaweeds are also naturally high in Iodine, which – thanks to Hadley’s nutrition knowledge – I’ve learned is an important ingredient in a healthy diet..
And seaweed has umami and is another great way to explore all of our taste buds.

Hadley and I went and lunched at a quint noodle bar called Anju in Kittery, Maine, where we munched on lots of (I think) umami tastes.

Pickled Cauliflower Salad. Rutabaga & Kohlrabi and Green Cabbage Kimchi. UMAMI.

Pickled Cauliflower Salad. Rutabaga & Kohlrabi and Green Cabbage Kimchi.

Anju Noodle Bar in Kittery, Maine. Yummy. Umami.

Speaking of kimchi…


Kimchi is a Korean dish that has GOT to have umami.  I definitely would say it’s yummy.  AND it’s fermented.. so I think umami is there for sure.  Fermentation. Fermented foods. Kimchi. Kombucha – that bubbly health store drink that will set you back around 5 bucks. All very umami.

Fermentation happens when bacteria cultures grow and respire.  There are wild strains of bacteria found on many vegetables.  This is what happens with kimchi – it is called ‘wild fermentation’ for this reason.  Kimchi is so much fun to make and it’s way cheaper to make it at home than to buy it from your local health store (will set you back at least 7 bucks for a tiny jar).

Same with ‘booch. (Kombucha’s pet name).  Kombucha is fermented tea that needs a Scoby (FUTURE DOG NAME PLEASE DON’T STEAL THIS IDEA FROM ME 😉 ). A scoby is the acronym for:

Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast

This means kimchi & kombucha are full of probiotics – bacteria that are beneficial to your gut health! Did you know that your gut is like your second brain?! So yeah, be good to your gut.  Some may even say to FOLLOW your gut.  (Only do this if you are getting lots of probiotics, otherwise your gut is not trustworthy. Hehe).

Same deal here. Cheaper & more fun to make at home. We’ll get back to booch in another post, though.

Kimchi is the next star of the show here.  I made some at home a few weeks ago using local cabbage, beet, turnip and celeriac root. Thanks Alprilla Farm!

I spiced it with lots of good things.. turmeric, curry powder, red pepper flakes, LOTS of ginger and LOTS of garlic (Sorry Hadley).

If you’re interested in making your own fermented things, just google some recipes.  There are lots of easy to follow ones out there!

Homemade Kimchi before it's sealed off to ferment in a jar.

Homemade Kimchi before it’s sealed off to ferment in a jar.

So, there ya go.  Umami & Kimchi.  My future cats.


I’ll leave you with a picture of some homemade spiced sweet potato hummus.  The red stuff is dulse!

happy hummus. also much cheaper to make at home ;)

happy hummus. also much cheaper to make at home 😉

Stay happy & healthy

❤ Gina & Hadley


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