According to my dictionary, the word umami can be used to mean (as it has come to mean in English) the particular savoury category of taste associated with, for example, ramen, but it can also be used just to mean a 'good' taste or flavour. Can anybody confirm if this second meaning is correct usage? If so, how are you meant to distinguish between the two meanings?

For instance, in the sentence:


Is it specifically 'savoury-ness' which is extracted as dashi, or simply 'good flavour'? Or is it ambiguous?

  • possibly related content from searching the site. japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/33504/… – JACK Sep 10 '19 at 12:15
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    @JACK, that doesn't answer the question, as the OP is asking what specifically is the root of what makes something 'savory,' not the definition of ummai. – ajsmart Sep 10 '19 at 12:52

I do not use うま味 for describing the taste of tasting dessert cakes. うま味 is basically used when you are eating claypot cooking called 土鍋{どなべ} in Japan such as 湯豆腐{ゆどうふ}.

It is believed to using the same 土鍋{どなべ} for long years, you can get good うま味 from the pot itself without adding umami ingredients a lot. Thanks to long years cooking 鍋物{なべもの}, the taste of soup has immersed into the 土鍋{どなべ}.

I will consult with the scientific definition of "umami" in wikipedia.

Umami represents the taste of the amino acid L-glutamate and 5’-ribonucleotides such as guanosine monophosphate (GMP) and inosine monophosphate (IMP). It can be described as a pleasant "brothy" or "meaty" taste with a long-lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue.

Foods rich in umami components

Generally, umami taste is common to foods that contain high levels of L-glutamate, IMP and GMP, most notably in fish, shellfish, cured meats, meat extracts, mushrooms, vegetables (e.g., ripe tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, spinach, celery, etc.) or green tea, hydrolysed vegetable protein, and fermented and aged products involving bacterial or yeast cultures, such as cheeses, shrimp pastes, fish sauce, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and yeast extracts such as Vegemite and Marmite

I remember not so many people like this tatse when I was tasting Vegimite and Marmite in Australia. Probably the taste has still not widely accepted somewhere.

In a metaphorical sense, you can use "うま味" for describing the profit from the business.

うま味のある商売 : The business with good profit.

I think this is close to the "good flavour".

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