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Umami is now recognized as the fifth basic taste, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Could kokumi be next? Described as a mouth-coating fullness, kokumi can be tasted in foods like Gouda cheese and soy sauce. Japanese scientists traced kokumi to the amino acid glutathione and have identified the taste receptor triggered by glutathione. More research is needed, but kokumi could help explain why foods like chicken soup have such a satisfying taste and near universal appeal.
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A big red wine always pairs so well with a cheese and charcuterie board. But why? According to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the fats in the food tame the tannins in the wine. Tannins are astringent and develop from grape skins and stems, and from aging in oak barrels. They're what constrict your tongue when you sip a complex aged wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. It turns out that meat and cheese (or any fatty foods) ease the constriction. A team of French scientists analyzed the interactions of tannins and fats using optical microscopy, electron microscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, as well as measuring fat droplet size with static light scattering. They also asked study participants to taste tannic solutions alone and with a spoonful of rapeseed, grapeseed, or olive oil. The results showed that oils make tannins less likely to bind with proteins in saliva, reducing their astringent effect. Fats and tannins go together like...well, peanut butter and jelly.
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London based Hoxton Farms has raised £2.7 million ($3.7 million USD) to develop lab-grown animal fat. The primary market for the product is plant-based meat alternatives, which co-founder Ed Steele says still aren’t good enough. “They don’t taste right and they aren’t healthy," says Steele. "They are missing the key ingredient: fat.” Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods currently use canola oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil for fattiness in their products, but it does not taste or perform the same as animal fat. Hoxton Farms extracts fat cells from living animals without harming them, then cultures the cells in a bioreactor to create fat that is identical to animal fat. The company aims to have a scalable prototype available within 12 to 18 months.
In two studies, University of Copenhagen food scientists and computer scientists used artificial intelligence to examine taste perception among 152 Danish and Chinese study participants. Taste perception is related to the number of tastebuds (papillae) on the tongue, and papillae are usually counted manually. To improve accuracy, researchers developed an algorithm and used image recognition to map and count the papillae. Results revealed that Chinese subjects had more tastebuds and were more sensitive to bitter tastes. The scientists did not attempt to explain why more Danes tend to enjoy smørrebrød and black licorice than Chinese people do.
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The U.S. maker of JUST Mayo and JUST Egg received approval from the Singapore Food Agency to sell the world's first cultured meat. The lab grown meat, known as GOOD chicken, was recently served at 1880, a tony restaurant in Singapore's entertainment center. Daring diners enjoyed the cultured chicken in bao buns, in phyllo, and on a spicy waffle. GOOD Chicken is made by mixing poultry cells with the same nutrients used for growth by live animals, including amino acids, carbohydrates, minerals, fats and vitamins. According to Eat Just CEO Josh Tetrick, the poultry cells can be grown into meat in a bioreactor in just 14 days. Tetrick is seeking regulatory approval for cultured meat in other countries, including the US, and hopes that the stringent approval process and criteria developed in Singapore serve as a model.
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