Umami used to be a relatively unknown term, but as consumer interest in unique flavors has grown, mentions of umami—a type of flavor often described as “savory” or “meaty”—has also become more common on restaurant menus.
For restaurant operators looking for ways to add umami to their menus, there are several ingredients that help do so in delicious ways. And though the flavor umami offers can characterized as meaty, that doesn’t mean the ingredients providing the flavor have to be meat or even meat-derived. Foods as diverse as seaweed, soy sauce, tomatoes and more are all perfect for adding umami to menus and creating craveworthy dishes.
Check out these four ways to add umami to restaurant menus.
1. Miso and other fermented foods
Miso, a fermented soybean paste, is a common soup ingredient in Japanese restaurants, but it may not be as ubiquitous in other parts of the menu. However, its use is growing, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, and it can be utilized in a number of preparations.
This salty, savory paste can be used as part of a sauce or as a marinade and is regularly used as part of a glaze for fish dishes. Operators can incorporate it into their menus by making it into other products that would benefit from a savory twist. For instance, mixing miso paste with mayonnaise for a miso-mayo spread for a sandwich is a great way to introduce this potentially unfamiliar flavor in a recognizable way.
Other flavor-packed foods that get their punch from fermentation include kimchi, a spicy Korean cabbage dish, and sauerkraut, common in German and Eastern European foods.
There’s no denying that mushrooms add an unparalled flavor and depth to the dishes they’re used in. Even better, they can be used in a variety of forms—sauteed, raw, or even as a powder—which makes them a versatile option for using on restaurant menus. Enhance a burger’s natural meaty taste by blending the meat with mushrooms prior to grilling or use them as part of a tomato sauce for an extra burst of savory goodness. The types of widely available mushrooms that offer the most umami flavor include shiitake, portabella, cremini and button mushrooms.
For additional umami deliciousness, use dried mushrooms—they have more umami than fresh, and cooked mushrooms are more umami than raw.
3. Aged cheeses
Aged cheeses are another heavy hitter in the umami category. People taste umami through taste receptors that respond to glutamates, and aged cheeses such as Parmesan are often high in glutamates.
Incorporating aged cheeses into menu items is easy: toss a few rinds from aged cheeses into the pot when making stock (remove them before using the stock, of course), grate some over an aromatic bowl of pasta, or crumble some blue cheese (veined cheese also provides a healthy dose of umami) into a salad or on top of a burger.
4. Cured pork
Of all meats, pork is the richest in glutamates, which means it’s ideal for providing an umami boost—after all, think of how many dishes are enhanced by adding a bit of bacon.
Pork on its own is packed with umami, but when otherwise processed—smoked, cured, brined, salted, or dried, for instance—it offers even more of that umami boost. For an easy appetizer idea, operators can wrap almost any food in strips of bacon for indulgent bites—think bacon-wrapped asparagus, bacon-wrapped dates or bacon-wrapped scallops, for instance. Bacon can be used in just about anything that needs a hit of flavor—from spinach salads to mashed potatoes to even desserts like maple-bacon donuts or bacon-chocolate chip cookies.
Other cured pork products such as chorizo and ham are great for adding umami to dishes. For instance, instead of ground beef, operators can use chorizo on nacho dishes, and diced ham is a convenient, delicious option for dishes such as omelets.
Phillips Mushrooms: Sautéed, Roasted and Ready
Phillips Gourmet’s Sautéed and Sautéed-Roasted Mushrooms are ready to boost flavor on your menu with the umami-rich, robust flavor of sautéed and roasted mushrooms. Clean label, consistent and convenient with a fresh-off-the-grill flavor, our Sautéed-Roasted Mushrooms are ready when you are.
Phillips Sautéed and Roasted mushrooms are ready for any dish from center-of-the-plate to sides, pasta, and sandwiches with no additional prep work required. Learn more here.