Simple question really...

Joined Jul 29, 2010
So I was in class the other day, and the chef told us to zest and orange and then to continue to mince the zest(for a cranberry-orange sauce for our thanksgiving day project). He then preceeded to warn us not to include the white part of the orange directly underneath the orange skin. Said that it didn't have a good taste with the rest of the stuff. Asked the class what the white part tastes like and after guessing through the 4 flavors that most of us thought of, we finally concluded that it was umami. Half of us were struck dumbfounded, due to the fact that our team name consists of the 5th suprising element...

so the question:

Does the white stuff, underneath the zest, of an orange really give off the umami taste?

             I tried it, and couldn't really discern a taste from it, but then again i'm a young student with a not-so-refined pallate.

and secondly:

How would you be able to incorporate this into a recipe or meal?

Thanks in Advance

Joined Oct 2, 2010
I agree with KKV, it's bitter, nothing else.

On the other hand, very good question; even any young child will recognize sweet, sour, bitter and salt. But, what does umami really taste like? I still have no more than a hunch, no real certainty. My best guess; reanimate some dried porcini in hot water, then taste; isn't that umami??? I would like to know for sure. Anyone?
Joined Jul 29, 2010
Gah, i've been on the hunt for it all night, there really is no clear definition of the taste of umami, although....

“Those who pay careful attention to their tastebuds will discover in the complex flavour of asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat, a common and yet absolutely singular taste which cannot be called sweet, or sour, or salty, or bitter…”
Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, Eighth International Congress of Applied Chemistry, Washington 1912

I believe its the savoriness that you would taste in most, if not all, foods. Of course in varieing degrees, however it's usually subtle.

The sites i've read so far say its due to the presence of guatamin....glutamate and inosinate, in their natural states?... (MSG is a salt form of glutamate). But i digress.

the first experience i've had of "UMAMI" would be when i went to the Taste of Beverly Hills Food and Wine event, which was back in September. so i may be a little biased and say that the Umami taste is found more in meats, given that "meaty" flavor.


@KKV: I can't really discern it myself, I'm just going with what my Chef says. (Chef's are always right. -So says chef) -shrug-
Joined Oct 2, 2010
Many people will say that umami can be translated as savory or even better, hearty. You should also "feel" the umami sensation in your throat, just beneath the ears...?????

I still gamble to detect the most umami in the reanimated porcini and maybe also in older parmezan. But, is it?

Don't know how chefs evaluate the combination of flavors these days, including umami. Before umami came into the picture, chefs would say that the best dishes have always 3 of the 4 "standard" flavors in it, and of course in the nicest balance. Also, acidity has become very important in modern gastronomy.

Anyway, I found this website on umami some months ago. Still haven't read all that much  ;  
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Joined Jul 29, 2010
Accidently hit clear, dont wanna rewrite the whole post again -.- heres the gist.

Posted site first, Too nab to know how to link it. good game Chris.

Taste isn't the only thing that's changed, we also see the whole plate structure get changed. ( "Paintings" to modern "Height")

Gonna try that dried porcini thing, agree with parmezan because it's been referenced on the few sites i've been reading into.

Going too much onto tangents, so no more.

Gonna ask chef on monday...

much obliged


Sorry no sleep + random research = lack of sleep.

ya. see i can't even do simple equations anymore.

so i'll come back later :]
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
"Umami" is popular, right now, because it's a Japanese word. And, as we all know, everything sounds better in Japanese.

When I was very much younger than I am, it was said there were five components to flavor: sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and savory. Savory never had a clearly defined taste, as did the other four, but referred, rather, to the overall sense of unctiousness certain foods have. Umami is merely the modern linguistic equivalent of that. In short, there is no specific flavor to umami, certainly not something you can pinpoint in, say, mushrooms, and find the same flavor in, say, tamari. But they both have umami.

Chris in B: I don't know if acid actually is playing a bigger role. But in the classic rubric, acids fall into the sour taste grouping.

Jromers: The white, or pith, of citrus is definately bitter. I don't think anyone questions that. The idea of it being umami is strange, at best. Indeed, since umami is always considered a good thing, why would you ever discard it?

We use zest in many things because most of the essential oils of the fruit are found there. And, in fact, without the pith, the zest actually tastes more of the fruit than the fruit itself. That is, lemon zest is more lemony than, say, the juice, orange zest more orangy, etc.

Chef's are always right. -So says chef

For sure and for certain. As you begin your culinary career it would be wise to engrave this variation of a Navy saying on your watch fob: If chef tells you to do something, and God tells you to do something else, you better pray than God is forgiving.
Joined Jul 29, 2010
If chef tells you to do something, and God tells you to do something else, you better pray than God is forgiving.             

                - is now engraved on all my knives :p

foreign words/names always do sound better, and most times explain in one word that takes many in English.

and thanks, i now have something to call my chef out on :]

good idea? maybe not. fun. yes
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I always thought umami was the flavor of earthiness and have often heard it compared to the flavor of some mushrooms.  Whatever umami is, I think I have uncovered where the flavor is exhibited at its best - snails!
Joined Oct 2, 2010
I always thought umami was the flavor of earthiness and have often heard it compared to the flavor of some mushrooms.  Whatever umami is, I think I have uncovered where the flavor is exhibited at its best - snails!
Escargots? I ate them only fried in garlic and parcely butter, so I don't know. They do have an earthiness, that's true.

See, there's no real strict definition of umami, nor where to get it, like sour in a lemon. Many people think they recognize umami, but do they? As I said, I never had any confirmation, so I'm guessing too. Umami should be in tomatoes, but I don't get it in there.

I still believe porcini have a very high content of umami. I recognize the very same taste-sensation in a Japanese shoyu I often use. Same taste almost in the particles of beef stuck to a pan after frying a good steak.
Joined Oct 9, 2008
Jromers asked two questions: first, is the flavor of citrus pith really umami; second, how could one use citrus pith in a dish.

1. As KYH says, it's not really a question of a flavor being umami. Umami is a quality that a flavor can have. If you want to pinpoint it with some accuracy, grill a steak, being sure to get a very deep crust on it. While it rests, deglaze the pan with a dab of big, mature red wine, add a good deal of sliced shiitake mushrooms and some reconstituted and drained dried porcini, cook until lightly browning, then add the drained and filtered porcini water and a healthy chunk of glace de viande. Put the mushrooms on a hot plate, put the steak on top, pour the liquid sauce over the steak, and then shave good real Parmesan or Pecorino cheese over the top. That's pretty much an umami-fest: it's all savory, all the way down.

That said, no, I simply do not detect this quality in citrus pith to any significant degree. I'd say it's just plain bitter, as many have said, and this is certainly the traditional reason for removing it before using the rind in cooking.

2. Yes, you can use the pith if you want, but you have to be rather cunning about it. The basic thing is that you have to blanch it many, many times. The problem is that the stuff is basically like a sponge, so what you do is to blanch it in a liquid that has some other desirable quality. You will never get rid of the bitterness --- if you want something that has no bitter citrus taste, why are you mucking about with citrus pith? So what you need to do is to mute that bitterness somewhat and balance it against something else you want. The most common thing is to cook whole citrus rind, cut in sticks, in a strong sugar solution. Done thoroughly enough -- and you'll have to change the liquid periodically to remove the bitterness you've infused in it -- this process will mute the bitterness, infuse the rind with a great deal of sweetness, and not lose the basic citrus taste. Then you toss the stuff in sugar to coat and let cool on a silpat or the like. (Don't do this in humid weather: it'll never dry.) When it's dry, eat it as candy, or even better dip 3/4 of each stick in good melted chocolate, then cool and eat.

From this basis, you can infer other possibilities. Suppose you were to infuse the pith with just enough sweetness to balance the bitterness and at the same time add some other flavor to complement the citrus. For example, we know that lime can go very well with a smoky chile flavor, so why not blanch lime rind --- or even pure pith --- in a solution of dark corn syrup or molasses, water, and crumbled chipotle peppers. You'd end up with something you wouldn't want to eat by itself, but if minced and perhaps dried it could make a remarkable accent to something fresh, rich, and a little on the sweet side, say something involving a good deal of avocado. I'm making this all up from my head, of course, but you can think about how one might go about playing with an ingredient of this kind. Myself, I'd be surprised if in a restaurant context you would ever save money by saving pith, but it could be done: just learn to use a very sharp knife to shave the pith from a segment of rind in one clean stroke, and you'll soon have all the pith you could ever want.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Never really figured out the "umami" thing.

Here's what I know about citrus zest:

If you want to use it raw, a'la minute, as a garnish etc, then only use the coloured part of the skin-- use a zester, microplane or whatever.  As KYH says, this is where the volatile oils are, and they pack a heckuva punch.

If you're going to use the zest as an ingredient, say in a cumberland sauce, you need to blanch it.  Most recipies go for blanching 3 times, first one in salted water, the other two in plain.   Over the last few months I've been making my own orange marmalade, I need to blanch the peel 3 times, or it's just too overwhelming.
Joined Nov 24, 2010
I suspect I am not as smart as most people and the people like me, the bottom half of the class, are commonly known as 'idiots' but I am going to do my best not to sound stupid when I say what I am about to say.

To me, the taste of 'umami' is like MSG.  Now, I love MSG despite all the accusations that have never been proven.  MSG alone does not taste 'good', just like salt.

But if you want to identify the taste of umami in, let's say, dried mushrooms, then have a small dose of MSG and mushrooms side by side.  I think you'll be able to identify that specific 'savoriness'.

And no, I do not think that white pith of an orange posses the wonder MSG like quality.
Joined Oct 9, 2008
Yes --- MSG is essentially synthetic umami. So another way to identify that taste is to try something reasonably savory with and without a good dash of MSG cooked into it.
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