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Category Archives: Umami

Fire, smoke, food, and drink

Pie from roasted pumpkin, baked in an iron skillet with fire and smoke Since it was the week before Christmas, I splurged on a Scotch that cost twice as much as what I usually pay. When I first tasted it, I was a bit shocked at how smoky the Scotch was. I usually prefer a […]

Quorn Stroganoff

I had not thought of Stroganoff in years. If ever I had even made beef Stroganoff, I don’t remember it. But, a couple of weeks ago, the New York Times mentioned beef Stroganoff in its beautiful weekly column, “What to Cook This Week.” Once you get Stroganoff in your head, you might as well give […]

Improvising Asian sauces

That’s miso broth in the cup, and fermented black beans in the jar. I have encountered two big challenges in trying to improve my competence with Chinese cuisine: wok cooking and the sauces. Recipes for Chinese dishes may call for one or more of an array of Chinese sauces that some of us have never […]

Low-carb winter feasting

Walnut pâté, mashed rutabaga, and Brussels sprouts gratin Rutabaga loves Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts love Roquefort. Roquefort loves walnuts. There you have it. A menu for a snow day. It’s amazing what you can get away with if you banish carbs. Not only have I maintained the summer diet that got me into shape for […]

Chow mein (approximately)

As I mentioned in the previous post on Polish pierogi, if you can’t make things authentic, at least you can make things good. The fact that we don’t have either the skills or the ingredients to do exotic cuisines authentically doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take inspiration from those cuisines and do the best we […]

Improvisations on foo yung

Szechuan-style foo yung with yellow squash and store-bought pot stickers. The chickens are laying so well and I am so rich with eggs that I’ve been eating far too much egg foo yung — and, of course, running experiments. This is a post about Szechuan-style sauce. It’s also a post about MSG. First, about MSG. […]

Umami again: pasta (or rice) with seared cabbage

Like most photos on this blog, clicking on the image will bring up a higher-resolution version. Searing cabbage is an Asian touch, and it’s smart. Searing brings out the best flavors in cabbage. Nor do you have to scorch it. Cabbage browns easily with moderate heat and no smoking, as long as you use an […]

In search of umami, first follow-up

In my first post on umami, I mentioned that I would see if I could find some MSG at Whole Foods and also pick up some kombu seaweed, which is said to be high in umami. Whole Foods is just about as MSG free as it is possible to be. I asked a spice captain […]

In search of umami

Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, where I’ve had some wonderful meals and long for more. As I recall, I encountered the idea of umami a few years ago, but I didn’t pay much attention because I assumed that it was not for real. But this week, while having an email conversation with a friend (thanks, Dean) […]


Only recently did I realize that miso is a living fermented food, like yogurt or sauerkraut. I had observed for many years that recipes usually warn you to add the miso last to soups and not to boil it, but no recipe ever said why, and it had not occurred to me to wonder. I […]