Umami is one of the five generally recognized basic tastes sensed by specialized receptor cells present on the human tongue. Umami is a loanword from Japanese meaning roughly "tasty", although "brothy", "meaty", or "savory" have been proposed as alternative translations. The same taste is also known as xiānwèi in Chinese cooking. In as much as it describes the flavor common to savory products such as meat, cheese, and mushrooms, umami is similar to Brillat-Savarin's concept of osmazome, an early attempt to describe the main flavoring component of meat as extracted in the process of making stock.

The umami taste is due to the detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid common in meats, cheese, broth, stock, and other protein-heavy foods. Salts of the glutamic acid, known as glutamates, easily hydrolyze and give the same taste. For this reason they are used as flavor enhancers. The most commonly used of these is monosodium glutamate . While the umami taste is due to glutamates, 5'-ribonucleotides such as guanosine monophosphate and inosine monophosphate greatly enhance its perceived intensity. Since these ribonucleotides are also acids, their salts are sometimes added together with glutamates to obtain a synergistic flavor enhancement effect.

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