Most of us know that when we eat, we can pin-point the flavors as being salty, sweet, sour or bitter. Not many people know that foods such as shell-fish, tomatoes, meat, cheese and even the humble potato have a flavor composition that meets yet a fifth taste called umami.
This taste cannot be described as any of the other four tastes and is largely described as savory. Take the incredible, edible egg for instance. Is it salty? Sweet? Sour or Bitter? No. The flavor your buds are experiencing when eating an egg, is savory umami.
Umami is popular in the Japanese culture and according to the Umami Information Center, it was founded by Japanese scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University. In 1908 Dr. Kikunae discovered that glutamate (glutamic acid) was the main culprit of this savory taste in certain foods. Inosinate and guanylate are also amino acids that give some foods that same umami taste. While some cultures are heavy handed with the food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG), there are plenty of foods that have a naturally high glutamate content. This recipe includes shrimp and tomatoes, both which provide the savory umami taste for your buds to enjoy.
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 Tablespoon butter, unsweetened
- 6 Garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large tomato, diced
- ¼ cup Vermouth or white cooking wine
- 2 lbs. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon parsley, fine chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ thin spaghetti
- Optional: Parmesan cheese, grated
How to Make It!
Fill a large pot about halfway with water, add a few pinches of salt and half of the olive oil and heat on medium-high. Once the water begins to boil, add the pasta and stir to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Stir occasionally while cooking. Meanwhile, heat half of the olive oil and all of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Pour the wine into the garlic and tomatoes, stir to combine and let it bubble and reduce by one quarter in volume.
By this time, the pasta should be close to finished. Add the shrimp to the frying pan and stir on occasion. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over the shrimp and stir to combine. Remove from the heat when each shrimp turns pink throughout, but don’t wait until the tails curl or you’ll have overcooked it. This should only take a couple of minutes. Toss with parsley and add salt and pepper, if desired. Drain the water from the pasta and plate the pasta, with shrimp and tomatoes on top, and garnish with parmesan. Serves 4-6 or 2 hungry Italians.