Newsletter - Q2 2021

Newsletter

Q2 2021

Exploring the fifth taste, umami, with insights, chef tips and delicious recipes.

Lee Kum Kee Newsletter  Q2 2021
the flavor
is kee
Unlocking Menu Potential
Sweet Meets Umami

Sweet and salty have a sophisticated sibling. “Craveable” is the best word to describe the phenomenon that sparks taste buds when sweet and umami tastes are combined in the same dish. Here, we’ll explore this trendy pairing and the fascinating world of umami with insights, a perspective from our resident umami expert, delicious recipes and products that can help you up the craveability factor on your menu.

UMAMI:THE FIFTH TASTE
There are five basic tastes that, in a nutshell, help us get the nutrients we need:
Sweet
Sweet
Salty
Salty
Sour
Sour
Bitter
Bitter
Umami
Umami
Umami is your taste for protein, and it also alters the other basic tastes. It does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to your taste buds and sensory perceptions!
Benefits of Umami
Increases
perception of sweet and salty
Decreases
perception of sour and bitter
Increases
salivation and perception of fat content
KEE INSIGHTS
+43.2%
growth of umami
Groth Of Umami
on U.S. menus over the past four years1
umami callouts
52%
of umami callouts are found on nonethnic menus2
event
1985
               The year "umami"  was officially recognized by Western researchers as the fifth taste3
FROM APPETIZERS TO DESSERT
Dessert may be the most obvious vehicle to showcase a sweet-umami pairing, but we’re also seeing these mashups pop up across the menu in appetizers and center-of-the-plate proteins. Take inspiration from inventive combinations like pork belly pancakes topped with hoisin and ginger-maple dressing, hoisin-steeped pork shoulder topped with apple slaw, Pacific salmon glazed in a maple-soy sauce, and marinades made with soy and seasonal fruit juices. And, of course, this irresistible flavor pairing hines on dessert menus in items like ginger cupcakes frosted with ginger-soy buttercream and tangy plum cupcakes topped with plum buttercream.
TAKE A SIP
The beverage category has also embraced sweet and umami offerings, especially in teas, beer and cocktails. Operators are adding interest to their menus ith items like roasted oolong iced tea with umami-rich preserved plum and sweet pears; a boozy punch made with makrut-lime-infused gin, ginger, pear, Ambrato vermouth and soy; and a golden ale brewed with pineapple and apple-smoked malt. Drinks with complex flavor profiles give adventurous consumers another avenue to challenge their palates and try something new.
ANATOMY OF AN UMAMI BOMB
What “makes” 
umami
AminoAcids - The building blocks of nucleic acids
5’Nucleotides - The building blocks of proteins
Peptides- Small chains of amino acids that are easy to metabolize
AMINOACIDS + NUCLEOTIDES + PEPTIDES = ADELICIOUS UMAMI BOMB
Breaking Down Common Umami Bombs
Caesar Dressing
Caesar Dressing
Puttanesca Sauce
Puttanesca Sauce
Pizza
Pizza
Ramen Bowl
Ramen Bowl
Stir-fry
Stir-fry
Amino Acids
Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Tomatoes
Tomatoes
Tomatoes, Cheese
Tomatoes, Cheese
Kombu
Kombu
Kombu
Soy Sauce, Oyster Sauce, Peas, Mushrooms
5’ Nucleotides
Eggs, Anchovies
Eggs, Anchovies
Anchovies
Anchovies
Mushrooms
Mushrooms
Bonito
Bonito
Oyster Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Peptides
Eggs, Anchovies
Anchovies
Anchovies
Anchovies
Pepperoni, Sausage
Pepperoni, Sausage
Pork Broth, Bonito
Pork Broth, Bonito
Oyster Sauce
Oyster Sauce
Chef Robert Danhi
Culinary Ambassador, Lee Kum Kee
Chef Talk
Flavor is a balancing act. For instance, cooks, chefs, and menu and product developers use different drivers to achieve the perfect balance of sweet and salty tastes. I see a big opportunity to take this combination a step further by leveraging umami in recipes that have a sweet flavor profile.
So what does umami do? From a nourishment perspective, which considers the total flavor experience and nutritional balance, umami is a tool that increases customers’ perceptions of sweet and salty. Umami actually changes the way your brain processes taste on a neurological level. Umami also changes our perception of sour and bitter and reduces these often-undesirable taste attributes. This enables us to use less sugar and sodium in our menu items and still create a complex and rich flavor profile that satisfies.
This is not a new concept in many Asian cuisines, where sweet-and-umami hoisin sauce is spread on pancakes for mu shu pork or Peking roasted duck wraps, or beef for Vietnamese pho is dipped in a sweet-and-umami fermented soybean paste.
Chef Danhi’s Menu Development Tips
  • Think beyond Asian flavor profiles with sweet-and-umami sauces, like hoisin sauce. Serve it as a dip for fried chicken or use it to enrich a chocolate sauce or cake. This unexpected punch of umami will deliver the flavor consumers crave.
  • Fruit is an unexpected place for umami to hide, yet real plum sauce is crafted with salted plums that bring the desirable fifth taste to the party. Plum sauce’s thick body is an incredible topping for sweet treats like ice cream, yogurt or even cheesecake.
  • Char siu, a traditional slow-roasted marinade meat, is lacquered with a thick sweet-and-umami sauce featuring spices like star anise. Char siu sauce is an ideal pairing for proteins like beef burgers, pulled pork and grilled shrimp.
On-Trend Applications
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Wings
Hoisin BBQ Ribs: Tender pork ribs marinated in a sweet and savory combination of hoisin sauce and ketchup, baked and broiled to caramelized perfection. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and sliced green onions to finish. Get the Recipe
Gochujang Pizza
Asian BBQ Tacos: A marinade of umami-rich char siu sauce, pure sesame oil and rice wine punches up the flavor of pork tacos, which are topped with tomato, onion, cilantro, lettuce and fresh lime. Get the Recipe
Wontons with Hot and Spicy Sauce
Vanilla Custard with Plum Sauce: Salty-sweet plum sauce imparts amazing depth of flavor to the batter of velvety vanilla custard, which is served with fresh fruit on top for visual appeal and brightness. Get the Recipe
Featured Lee Kum Kee Products
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Wings
Hoisin Sauce: A classic sauce made with spices, ground soybeans and sweet potatoes. Equal parts sweet and umami, it’s great for sauce bases, marinades and as a topping or dip. View Product
Gochujang Pizza
Char Siu Sauce: Rich, sweet and savory all at once, this classic Chinese barbecue sauce is an ideal marinade for beef, pork, chicken and seafood. View Product
Wontons with Hot and Spicy Sauce
Plum Sauce: Made from preserved Chinese plums, this sweet sauce is versatile enough to use as a dip for roasted meat dishes or as an ingredient in your favorite desserts. View Product

1Datassential MenuTrends, U.S. Menu Penetration 2016-2020.

2Datassential SNAP Food Profile, “Umami,” February 2021.

3The Spruce Eats, “What is Umami?”, September 2021.



Additional Sources:

Flavor & the Menu, “Umami’s Next Move,” by Katie Ayoub, September 2019.

Datassential MenuTrends.

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