Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The taste of MSG
Discount Thoughts has posted a wonderful description of how we taste the glutamate in monosodium glutamate [How we taste umami]. The taste is called "umami" and it's distinct from the four standard tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.
The figure shows a glutamate molecule (yellow) bound to the umami receptor with inosine monophosphate (IMP) (green). You need both glutamate and IMP in order to get the umami taste.
A Sense of Smell
I know lots of people who can taste MSG but that's not the problem. There appear to be some other effects of this chemical that are much less pleasant.
The umami flavor is common in meats, cheese, seafood, and lots of other foods that are rich in protein. Vegetarians don't know what they're missing!