Just when we were starting to wrap our heads around umami, the hard-to-describe "fifth taste," Japanese chefs and researchers are honing in on kokumi, yet another newly identified and frustratingly difficult-to-define sense of taste.
Kokumi, described as a sensation of richness detected by calcium receptors on the tongue, was one of the hot topics at Swiss fragrance and flavour company Givaudan's Chefs Council in Hong Kong earlier this month, according to the company's web site.
Distinct from the basic tastes of bitter, sour, salty and sweet, kokumi is also separate from the oft-described savouriness of umami. (Umami is that other indescribably "yummy" taste found in seafood, mushrooms, tomatoes, and soy sauce.)
"Literally translated from the Japanese to mean rich (koku) taste (mi), Kokumi is a taste sensation which is generated from a complex mix of ingredients that work in harmony with each other to provide balance and richness," Givaudan's web site says, adding it's created by slow-cooking stocks from bone or meat stews, curing and drying, roasting, searing, confit and braising.
If you're still confused, you're not alone. The web site Slashfood compares the new taste concept to the sound of one hand clapping: "Think of it like this: when is a flavor not a flavor? When it's kokumi!"