I’ve always been fascinated by the science of taste. Back in my elementary school days, I learned the “taste map” on the tongue consisted of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. But apparently this wasn’t the full or accurate story. In college, I first heard the taste map was bullshit, and they had introduced the new the flavor “umami“. “What the hell is umami??” I wondered. It was described as the savory but not quite salty flavor of meat.
It took me a long time to wrap my head around that. Almost all meat I’ve eaten is embedded with salt, making the separation of favors nearly impossible in my mind. But last week, sadly craving Yagura (RIP), I decided to stop by Sunrise Mart (41st Street btw. 5th + Madison) since I like their bento boxes. Instead, I tried something there that was almost pure umami. This was the $6.50 ($7.02 with tax) tonjiru soup special. As soon as I put it in my mouth, I was mesmerized by the umaminess of it. I finally fully understood what umami tastes like without a salt mask.