A Scientific Search for Optimal Pairings Using an Umami Index

By: via PR Newswire

TOYKO, Nov. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- AISSY Inc., a company that provides data and consulting related to the sensation of taste, has conducted an experiment at the request of the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO)—an organization that promotes Japanese agricultural, forestry, fishery produce and food products overseas—into the increase in umami through the pairing of food with alcoholic beverages.

[Graph 1: Average Increase in Umami Score Across 25 Dishes When Combined with Alcoholic Beverages] [Graph 2: Umami Score for Food Alone and Then When Paired with Sake (Bar Graph) and the Increased Score]

Research is being conducted around the globe into the pairing of alcoholic beverages with food in order to bring out additional delicious flavors. For this experiment, AISSY has focused on the metric of "umami," and has made use of the taste analyzer called "Taste Sensor Leo," a machine co-developed by Keio University and AISSY that can convert taste into numerical data. The experiment then proceeded to analyze the increase in umami for the pairings of different food (a total of 25 dishes) and alcoholic beverages (a total of 7 types).

The results of the experiment indicate that sake, which contains many elements of umami, increased the umami score no matter the food it was combined with, and that the pairing of seafood like grilled lobster, steamed mussels in white wine, and raw oysters with sake achieved the highest increase in umami. This can be predicted to be because the umami component inosinic acid found in seafood and the umami component glutamic acid found in sake have a reciprocal action, creating an "umami synergy effect" that further increases umami.

Research Findings 

*Numbers are rounded off to the third decimal place.
*Numbers are all umami values turned into points via the "Taste Sensor Leo," and there may be individual variance in how delicious different people find them.

The increase in umami provided by sake is higher than other alcoholic beverages
The addition of alcohol increased the umami score for all of the food, but among them sake was the one that increased the umami the most. The average increase across all 25 food dishes for the other alcoholic beverages was 0.07 - 0.08 points, while for sake it reached 0.32 points.

The combination of seafood and sake provided the largest increase in umami score
When the scores for the increases in umami due to sake are looked at for each dish, the results show that seafood such as grilled lobster, softshell crab, and steamed mussels in white wine have the largest increases in umami. This can be predicted to be because the umami component inosinic acid found in seafood and the umami component glutamic acid found in sake have a synergy effect, which is then further enhanced by the suitable volume of fat found in the seafood that makes it easier to increase umami.

When making a selection based on umami, sake is the best to pair with seafood
White wine is famous as a selection to pair with seafood, but when measuring the increase in umami based in the metric of umami, the pairing with sake exceeds that of white wine in umami score. For example, results show that the classic pairing of raw oysters with white wine (increase of 0.13 points) is actually superseded by a pairing with sake (increase of 0.41 points).

 [Comment from AISSY Representative Ryuichi Suzuki]
The human sense of taste developed in order to allow us to determine whether something we put in our mouths is going to be beneficial for us or not. Umami plays the role of signaling our bodies that required proteins can be obtained from the food it contains; glutamic acid, inosinic acid, guanylic acid, and succinic acid - among others - have been confirmed as components of umami. Each of these alone can function as umami, but it is also known that having multiple umami components interact with each other can create a synergistic effect and further enhance the resulting umami. The excellent compatibility of Japanese sake and seafood has long been talked about in Japan; this experiment has provided a scientific basis for the reason why, displaying how the sake—containing such umami components as glutamic acid and succinic acid—synergizes well with the seafood, which not only contains inosinic acid but also has fatty content that allows for easier acquisition of the umami enhancing effect.

[Comment from The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO) Director-General Hiroki Oizumi]
JFOODO has settled upon the compatibility of seafood with sake as our one approach for sharing the appeal of sake with overseas markets. This experiment has proven that, in regard to an increase in umami, sake is highly compatible with not only tradition Japanese dishes but also a wide range of seafood. It proposes a new method of selection, using the metric of "increase in umami" for each pairing, and we hope for more people to come to enjoy the harmony of seafood and sake.
Based on this experiment conducted by AISSY, JFOODO has released some online content that proposes pairings of food and alcohol based on this "increase in umami."
Website: https://sake-jfoodo.jetro.go.jp/ 

[Experimental Method]
Subjects for Measurement:
25 Dishes: Grilled lobster, soft-shell crab, steamed mussels in white wine, grilled cod, grilled scallops with garlic, California roll, raw oysters, baked French onion soup, calamari fritters, Prosciutto, omelet, sashimi (tuna), grilled sausage, white fish carpaccio, Mushrooms ajillo, shrimp cocktail, fried chicken, caprese, Camembert cheese, mashed potato, clam chowder, steak, peperoni pizza, olives, caviar

Alcoholic Beverages: Japanese sake, white wine, red wine, champagne, beer, gin, whisky
*For the Japanese sake, a total of four brands were used, with an average value calculated from the score for each brand.

Measuring Method:

  • The 25 dishes were prepared, dissolved in electrolyte solution and analyzed using the taste analyzer "Taste Sensor Leo."*
  • In order to analyze the taste of the pairing of the dishes and alcohol, first the alcoholic beverage was applied to the measuring device, and then without cleaning it the food dissolved in the electrolyte solution was further applied, and then placed inside the analysis apparatus.
  • The increased score over the umami score of the food alone was taken as the increase in umami due to the pairing.

[About AISSY]
AISSY works using the Taste Sensor Leo to perform a taste analysis of food products, provide consulting based on the analytical data received, and conduct joint research into taste. The Taste Sensor Leo was developed by the Facility of Science and Technology at Keio University, and uses AI technology to recreate the human sensation of taste.

[About Taste Sensor Leo]
A machine co-developed by Keio University and AISSY that artificially recreates the system of human taste. Samples of food are placed not onto the taste buds of the tongue but the sensors of the machine, which then measures electrical signals from them and passes them through a proprietary neural network (the realization of artificial intelligence) to output quantitative numerical data based in the five basic flavors.

[About JFOODO]
*The Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO) is a consumer-focused organization created by the Japanese government for the branding of Japanese agricultural, forestry, and fishery produce and food products.

Media Contact:
Ayako Kaneyoshi
(212) 684-1955


[Graph 3: Increases in Umami Score Through Pairing for Specific Foods]

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