Making food with memorable flavor is every chef's ambition. You'll find it helpful to understand the principle of flavor enhancement—how to use tart flavors to balance sweet ones, for example, or sugar and acid to counter chile heat. But sometimes dishes simply have a flavor hole that no amount of salt, sugar or lemon can fill.When that happens, chefs familiar with umami will turn to umami-rich foods to supply that missing link. Southeast Asian fish sauce, anchovy paste or soy sauce—all rich in umami-can add depth, or what some chefs call "resonance," to a dish.After adding an umami-rich flavor enhancer like soy sauce, you'll perceive an improvement in the dish before you detect the enhancer. In other words, just a few drops of soy sauce in, say, black bean chili or meatloaf can deepen the flavor without making the dish taste Asian.Traditionally brewed soy sauce contributes a full, robust sensation and heightens perceptions of all the flavors in the dish. One California chef says this umami ingredient can make the flavor of a dish seem to be "in more vivid color."To convince yourself of the umami power of soy sauce, try these experiments:
Try these quick recipes and see how easy it is to add umami:
Click here for more umami-rich recipe ideas.
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