My Yiddishe Umami

How the "fifth taste" of Japanese cooking has flavored the Jewish culinary world.

Jewish Week Online Columnist

It seems like everywhere you look in the food world these days, chefs and diners alike have the same buzzword on their tongues: umami. Known as the “fifth taste”—in addition to bitter, sour, salty and sweet, that is — umami (a Japanese portmanteau of the words “delicious” and “taste”) refers to that rich, savory flavor we taste in foods like cured meats and cheeses, mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, and in fermented products such as soy sauce and sauerkraut.

6 tbsp schmaltz, divided (or substitute vegetable oil)
3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thin half-moons
1 lb chicken livers, cleaned of any fat or sinew
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry sherry or vermouth
2 (12-oz.) packages button mushrooms, wiped clean and very finely sliced
1 baguette, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
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