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The Fifth Taste

Feb 05, 2018

Playing on the theme of umami, also known as “the fifth taste”, which is a flavor sensation commonly described as rich, savory, and pleasant—a natural form of monosodium glutamate (MSG). Many chefs and skilled home cooks leverage ingredients which are high in glutamates, to enhance and fortify many dishes they prepare—a trend we are seeing take off in the culinary landscape. Some of the ingredients outlined below are examples of items which have high levels glutamates, AKA “Umami Bombs”:

  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic
  • Peppers
  • Anchovy paste
  • Black olives
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Mushrooms (especially porcini)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Wine vinegar

The end result yields a product that is highly nuanced, by mimicking a wide variety of complex and layered flavors.

Many of the products that Custom Culinary® has available in our branded portfolio provide simple operational solutions for adding a ton umami flavor to dishes. Below is a quick highlight of some of my favorite ways to incorporate them into culinary applications:

Sundried Tomato Pesto: A contemporary Mediterranean blend of sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, basil and oregano that brings a uniquely authentic flavor to pasta dishes and flatbreads.

Wasabi Ginger Ponzu: A versatile glaze-style sauce made from lemony ponzu soy sauce, fresh ginger and just the right balance of wasabi horseradish, which can be used to season anything from salad greens to sashimi.

Savory Roasted Vegetable Base: Authentic caramelized sweetness of roasted vegetables combine for a well-balanced and blended vegetable base, providing unprecedented menu versatility—can be used as the foundation for broths/soups or as a seasoning for hummus and spreads.

Southwest Flavor Concentrate: A traditional Southwestern blend of chipotle and jalapeno peppers, red peppers, onion and garlic—simply add to taste in your signature sauces, soups, dressings, spreads, entrees, sides and more.

Parmesan Alfredo Sauce: A gluten free alfredo sauce made with fresh milk, cream, with fresh parmesan cheese, and a mild pepper note—perfect for as a sauce for pasta or baked in a casserole application.

So many creative options and opportunities to incorporate a ton of flavor, without leading with salt or fat—with this intensity of flavor also comes additional nutritional benefits. Feel free to experiment with familiar platforms, paired with unusual flavors—or leverage these flavors in healthy cooking applications such a steaming or poaching. However you end up using these ingredients, feel free to explore and experiment with these flavor-packed bombs!


Richard Reilly, CEC, CCA
Corporate Executive Chef, West Region
Custom Culinary, Inc.

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