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The Fifth Taste: Cooking with Umami Hardcover – November 8, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Japanese chefs speak of a mysterious "fifth taste," one which is beyond and complementary to the known four (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). A few examples are the savory, pungent, meaty quality found in foods such as soy sauce, Parmesan cheese, red wine, mushrooms, truffles and oysters. In this book, a married couple (he's a chef; she's an author) explain and explore umami for Western audiences. They begin with an authoritative (if dry) scientific breakdown of umami-causing amino acids and nucleotides, and a lesson on how they react with certain taste buds in our mouths. This is followed by recipes for the authors' own "everyday" dishes using umami-full ingredients (helpfully printed in boldface). Their Asparagus Frittata, "Ragumami" Tomato and Two Meat Sauce and the like are fine, but the real meat of the book comes in the more than 60 delectable, umami-loaded recipes from top American chefs. Mouths will water over Rick Bayless's Spicy Chipotle Pork Tacos with Sun-Dried Tomato Salsa, Nobu Matsuhisa's Cilantro Soup with Monkfish, and Jody Adams's Braised Duck Legs with Mushrooms and Caper-Vinegar Sauce. Comprehensive recipes and pictures of scrumptious-looking food add to the book's appeal. (Dec.)
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About the Author

Anna and David Kasabian are a husband-and-wife team who specialize in all things culinary. The author of nine books, Anna Kasabian has written for Country Living, Cook's Illustrated, Yankee Magazine, Coastal Living, and the Boston Globe. An honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, David Kasabian is a professional chef, food writer, and food photographer.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Universe (November 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789313561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789313560
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,314,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By George Callandrillo on March 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are four basic tastes: Bitter, sweet, salty and sour. This book defines the fifth taste: Umami. In culinary school we learned about it as "savory". This book does a very good job of tracing Umami's history and current application. If you want better tasting food for a small investment in ingredients, buy this book. It relates to all levels of culinary/cooking skills.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been spicing up my cooking with The Fifth Taste, and getting great results! These recipes are really fun and creative, and the variety is enhanced by many sources. It's like many cookbooks in one. The photos are also helpful in preparation. I've already learned a lot from this book.
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I like the information provided, however, the average home cook can't afford items like lobster, scallops or truffles. So many of the recipes just wouldn't work for me. I guess I would have liked pairing ideas more than so many recipes. I think if I had realized that the info itself would only take up 10 pages out of 185 pages, I wouldn't have purchased the book.
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Format: Hardcover
As a professional cook and avid reader of all things culinary, I can assure you that the Kasabians hit the nail on the head with this book. Yes, it contains terrific recipes from some of the USA's top chefs. And, yes, the Kasabians have kindly divulged some of their own mouth-watering recipes for us to sample. Best of all, though, they explain in detailed but easy to understand language just what the formerly mysterious term "umami" is all about and how everyone - chefs and home cooks alike - can put it to use making better tasting food in our own kitchens. Kudos David and Anna!
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit I expected more from this book. The Subject information has been whittled down to next to nothing. There isn't much teaching information and is vague at best. I had reread it several times before writing this review and quite frankly it raised more questions than it answered. So much so I found myself searching for answers on-line before I actually sat down to write the review. I had to stay on task though so those questions will have to remain unanswered for now.
The book has merit and worth the purchase price I paid. 2.75 plus shipping. If you can find it for that I would say give it ago. there are many expensive ingredients. As I have said before you can find canned truffle bits and pieces which work just as well and far less expensive than whole fresh truffles. Truffle oil also works great on it's own and again isn't that expensive considering how little you actually need to use per recipe in order to flavor a dish.
There are several pictures located in the center of the book. Anyone following my reviews knows my opinion on that. Any recipe book without photos is like a painter trying to paint a distinct landscape blindfolded.
However this can be overlooked to some extent in this book and you still can gain valuable insight. I would recommend researching a more up-to-date book on the subject of Umami before spending top dollar on this book.

If you can get it on the less expensive side I would recommend it as a read, but I feel as a westerner you will still be looking for answers about Umami. The few recipes provided are interesting, appealing and easily executed; however they do nothing to enlighten a western reader as to what makes them prime examples of Umami.
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Format: Hardcover
My 12 year old son introduced me to this book! What a find! We enjoyed the "jelly bean" test to understand just what the "fifth taste" is. Vegetarian Muffaletta Roll-Ups is one of my favorites and my son (willing to chop and measure with zeal) loves the braised ribs and fish. We highly recommend this cook book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is extremely well written, and of umami is new to you, this book will have all the information to not only get you started, but to also keep going for some time to come. The introduction and scientific backup of the concepts explained is awesome.
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