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Taste Test: Taste No. 5 Umami Paste

Taste No. 5 Umami Paste: My New Main Squeeze

Taste No. 5 Umami PasteThis 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.

Taste No. 5 Umami Paste

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.

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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?

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