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    Kokumi: The New Sixth Sensation

    Have you heard of umami? That was the 5th sense that was discovered and now Ajinomoto has discovered kokumi. Kokumi is often considered to be the new 6th sense, it is pretty essential in understanding why and how we enjoy the food we eat. It is a taste sensation that adds a sense of craveability in your food. 

    What is Kokumi?

    Kokumi was first discovered and isolated in the 1980s by Ajinomoto, a Japanese flavor company. The word kokumi can be roughly translated to delicious, rich taste, heartiness or mouthfulness, all of this depends on who you are talking to. 

    Kokumi is actually harder to describe than what umami is. It describes the foods that do not exactly have their own flavor, but instead enhances the flavors with what they have been combined with. Some people suggest that the taste is like a physical sensation and is able to coat your mouth while extending the intensity. 

    Because kokumi can not be detected on the palate by itself, kokumi is still widely debated among chefs and scientists. The earliest research on kokumi was done on the impact of garlic in foods. People reported that they found sensations associated with kokumi on soup that had diluted garlic. Eventually, they were able to isolate amino acids in the garlic that caused the sensation of kokumi. 

    Kokumi is able to activate your tongue’s calcium receptors. The calcium channels on your tongue is in charge of regulating the levels of calcium in your body. When your calcium receptors are activated by kokumi foods, the brain will then send a signal to magnify the feeling, complexity and duration of the flavor. Basically, it will make the food you eat taste richer and more complex while also lasting for a longer time in your mouth. 

    The sense kokumi is still mostly featured in Japanese cuisines. The tastes are mostly featured in fermented foods such as soy sauce, fish sauce, shrimp paste and alcohol. The ingredients that causes the kokumi sensation has been isolated and can actually be bought in powder packages to add more flavors to your dishes. 

    Many traditional recipes have already been taking advantage of the effect of kokumi. For example, the creation of kimchi, adding garlic to soup and even sautéing the onions in oil. Cooked meats and fermented foods in particular tends to present kokumi. Our ancestors have been eating meat cooked on fire and probably tasting the pleasant taste of kokumi. Therefore, kokumi has been present for a very long time, we just didn’t isolate it and identified this phenomenon.  

    How to Add Kokumi to Your Dishes?

    Adding kokumi to your dishes while you are cooking can enhance the flavors of your dishes. It naturally occurs in foods that are high in protein and is often suggested that this might have an evolutionary benefit. This is because kokumi peptides are naturally found in foods that are high in protein and to form the peptides, you need to breakdown the protein by cooking. 

    By around 2010, the Ajinomoto Group were able to identify gamma-gutamyl peptides that were able to activate your calcium receptors on your tongue. This peptide was able to intensify the salt, savory and sweet flavors and is found in many different foods. 

    You can find kokumi in fermented foods and also develop the kokumi by slow cooking, creating a stew or even in aged cheese. Foods that are cooked for longer tend to produce a higher amount of kokumi than foods that are eaten early during preparation. 

    The science behind kokumi is still relatively new. We are still currently discovering more and more about having the kokumi sense in your food. Regardless, there has been many implications with the discovery of kokumi in how it can benefit the lives of people. 

    It has been suggested that using kokumi ingredients in food might be able to enhance the taste of foods to make dishes more appetizing to those who have diminished tastes. In addition, Ajinomoto experimented with adding kokumi substances into a low-fat put butter and taste testers stated that they found the peanut butter with kokumi to be more tasteful, thicker texture and had a better sensation in their mouth. Because kokumi is relatively low in calories, it could be added into diet food to make it taste better. 

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