This time last year, the food world was scratching its head with intrigue when Laura Santtini, a British cook and food writer, came out with a tube of something called Taste No. 5 Umami Paste that promised to be all things to all savory dishes. A flood of questions collectively came to mind: Was it different from MSG? Would it ever reach the US market? And, most importantly: Did it work?
We finally got our hands on a tube, and reached our own verdict. Taste No. 5's day of reckoning, after the break.
This product gets its name from umami, the term for the Japanese-discovered taste sensation (dubbed the "fifth taste" after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) that describes a rounded, meaty savoriness. Santtini's paste is an amalgam of foods naturally high in umami, like mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese, and grape must.
At first, this slick, fiery red paste tasted brashly salty and briny, but my opinion changed entirely after incorporating touches of it into various dishes. Everything I tried it in, from sauces to spreads, had a little more mouthfeel and body, a wash of color, and an added dimension of flavor. My absolute favorite application was tossed into a wok full of pad thai.
There's only one caveat: Taste No. 5 has a bit of a fishy aftertaste that left me feeling like a cat after too many kibbles. It's nothing that gum or a tooth brushing can't cure, but I wouldn't slip it into my food on date night. What do you think of umami paste — and the concept of umami in general?