Have you ever heard of umami? Otherwise known as the “fifth taste,” umami is something you hear a lot about in foodie circles. But unlike the other tastes—sweet, sour, salty and bitter—umami is a bit more difficult to describe. Join our food expert Mirjam on a culinary journey with these 4 delicious recipes and let your taste buds discover umami.
Originally discovered in 1908 by a Japanese scientist, umami is actually the taste of protein. It is a hearty taste that’s primarily found in animal products like bacon, dried meat and salted fish. But vegetarians don’t need to miss out! You also find umami in pecorino and parmesan cheese, dried tomatoes and mushrooms. These four recipes are packed with umami yet suitable for vegetarians. Enjoy!
JAPANESE ROASTED EGGPLANT WITH MISO AND FRESH HERBS
Eggplant can be a difficult vegetable to work with because it’s so absorbent. If you use too much oil, it becomes a fatty mess—and nobody wants that. In this version, it’s roasted in the oven with miso and then served with a mountain of fresh, green herbs: mint, cilantro and parsley. Very fresh and light. Serve with some rings of fresh spring onion and red pepper and your Japanese experience is complete!
Recipe for 4 people
Preparation time: 20 minutes
- 2 mid-sized eggplants
- mild olive oil to cover the eggplant
- 3 tbs sesame oil
- 10 g (large handful) fresh mint, leaves only
- 10 g (large handful) fresh cilantro, leaves only
- 10 g (large handful) fresh parsley, leaves only
- 1 red pepper, sliced in thin rings
- 2 tbs brown miso
- 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbs agave or maple syrup
- ½ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 200C and cover a baking tray or oven rack with baking paper.
2. Slice the eggplant lengthwise. Slice it lengthwise again into 4 parts and place them on the baking paper.
3. Cover the parts in olive oil. Make sure you do this quickly and that they don’t absorb too much oil. Slide the oven rack or baking tray in the oven and roast the eggplant for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a small steel pan, heat the miso, vinegar, syrup and salt. Heat through until everything is mixed well and then remove it from the fire. Stir 2 tsp of the sesame oil through it.
5. Collect the leaves from the herbs and slice the spring onion and red pepper into little rings.
6. Remove the eggplant from the oven and let it cool down. Cover it with the miso paste and bake it in the oven for another 10 minutes.
7. Lay the eggplant on a plate, sprinkle it with all of the fresh herbs, red pepper and spring onion, then drizzle it with 1 tbs of sesame oil.
KALE SALAD WITH AVOCADO, GRAPEFRUIT, RED BEETS AND UMAMI DRESSING
In this recipe, the umami is mostly present in the dressing. But the combination of kale, grapefruit, avocado and cilantro creates a real explosion of flavour! If you “massage” the kale with oil beforehand, it will become beautifully tender, allowing you to eat it raw.
Recipe for 2 people
Preparation time: 15 minutes
- 85 g kale (removed from the thick stalk) leaves torn into pieces
- 2 tbs chili oil
- 50 g raw (red) beet, julienned
- 100 g avocado, in slices
- 1 grapefruit, without skin, in pieces
- 1 tbs fresh red pepper, in rings
- Handful of fresh cilantro, leaves only
- 4 tbs almond flakes
Ingredients for the umami dressing:
- 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 heaping tbs (organic) mayonnaise
- 1 large tbs Dijon mustard
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- juice from ½ lemon
- 4 tbs grated parmesan cheese
- 1 glove of garlic, pressed
- ½ tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
1. Cut the leaves of the kale from the thick stalk and tear these into pieces. Sprinkle with the chili oil and massage it in thoroughly.
2. Then cut the avocado into blocks, julienne the red beets (cut into thin bars) and cut the grapefruit into pieces without the skin. Put all of this into a large dish with the kale. Distribute the cilantro leaves, spring onion rings and the red pepper over it.
3. Roast the almond flakes briefly in a dry pan until they begin to colour and then sprinkle them over the salad.
4. Mix all the ingredients for the umami dressing in a small pot with a lid and shake this until it becomes a smooth, somewhat thicker dressing.
Serve the dressing on the side.
POKE BOWL WITH FRESH RAW SALMON
The poke bowl is a salad with fresh and loose “components.” This means that the ingredients are suitable apart from one another, without having to mix them all together. It looks absolutely beautiful this way. Especially when you use fresh ingredients like edamame, strips of red cabbage and salmon—it’s as pretty as a picture! Aside from that, salmon is the ultimate umami ingredient—and the soy sauce and Sriracha in the dressing enhance the taste even more.
Recipe for 2 people
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Ingredients for the salad
- 40 g brown rice or brown, organic basmati rice
- 50 g salmon, cut into blocks
- 50 g red cabbage, in thin strips
- 100 g cucumber
- 50 g edamame
- 1 avocado, halved and cut crosswise into thin slices
- 4 radishes in slices
- 2 tsp black or roasted sesame seeds
- 1 spring onion in thin rings
- Small handful lamb’s lettuce, leaves only
- optional: small green pepper in thin rings
Ingredients for the marinade
- 30 ml soy sauce
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp Sriracha
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Ingredients for spicy dressing
- 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp sambal oelek
- 30 ml soy sauce
1. Cook the rice as directed on the package. Drain (if necessary) and let it sit under a closed lid.
2. Cut the salmon into blocks of around 1.5 x 1.5 cm. Prepare the marinade by mixing all the ingredients together and then mix this with the salmon.
3. Cut the cucumber into blocks and the red cabbage into thin strips. Boil the edamame (pods and all) and then remove the pods. (if possible, buy the edamame loose to eliminate this extra step). Slice the avocado and radishes, and then slice the spring onion, lamb’s lettuce and (if applicable) the green pepper into rings.
4. Prepare the spicy dressing by mixing all of the ingredients thoroughly in a pot with a lid.
5. Divide the rice into the bowls, then all the other ingredients. Garnish with the rings of spring onion, green pepper and sesame seeds. Serve the dressing on the side.
SPRING ROLLS WITH FRIED OYSTER MUSHROOMS, SPICY MANGO, AVOCADO AND LIME-SOY SAUCE DRESSING
This recipe takes a bit of time, but believe me: it’s worth it. Spring rolls look great, especially when you use a lot of colour. The combination of the oyster mushrooms and mango might sound a little crazy, but it is simply delicious. Mushrooms are prized as an ingredient that really hits all the right umami notes. And oyster mushrooms have a “meaty” taste to them, making them even better. Garnish with some extra bits of green and your simple wrap will look even more amazing.
Recipe makes 8 spring rolls
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Ingredients for the spring rolls
- 200 g oyster mushrooms, cut into strips of around 1 cm thick
- 2 tbs mild olive oil to fry the mushrooms in
- 1 mango, peeled and in strips
- 1/3 cucumber, with seeds removed and sliced into thin strips
- Fresh mint leaves
- 2 handfuls of lamb’s lettuce
- Small dish of alfalfa
- 8 sheets of rice paper
- 2 spring onions, slice in rings, for garnishing
Ingredients for the lime-soy sauce dressing
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- juice from 1 lime
- 4 tbs soy sauce
- 2 tbs sweet chili sauce
- 2 tsp agave or maple syrup
1. Fry the oyster mushrooms in the olive oil for around 5 minutes, until they begin to colour and get a bit crispy on the ends. Remove from heat and sprinkle them with a little bit of salt.
2. Heat a pan with enough water to submerge an entire sheet of rice paper. Do not boil—it should be warm, but cool enough that you can still put your hands in it.
3. Slice the mango and cucumber into pieces of the same sizes, then pluck the fresh mint from the stem.
4. Place the rice paper in the heated water. The water should be cool enough that you can still put your hands in it. You’ll notice that the sheet immediately starts to get soft. When the paper is completely flexible, remove it from the water and lay it as nicely as possible on a clean surface.
5. Fill the rice paper: on the bottom half, place 3 mint leaves in a row. Then place some oyster mushrooms, cucumber and mango over them, and then some lamb’s lettuce and alfalfa. Roll the sheet as tightly as possible (without tearing) and fold the sides inwards to form a little present. Now that’s a perfect spring roll.
6. Prepare the lime-soy sauce dressing by mixing all the ingredients together thoroughly. Serve the spring rolls with the rings of spring onion and the dressing.