What Is Savory Food? – An Insight Into The 5th Core Taste

Look around! The world is full of taste and flavor. While most people thought our palate only accepts sweet, sour, spicy, and salty taste, the scientists banged the door with a 5th one. ‘Umami’-The 5th taste receptor on the human tongue.

Umami or savoriness was discovered long ago in Japan by a scientist Dr. Kikunae Ikeda. The taste got its place alongside the other four core flavors during the late 90s or early 20s.

The taste of umami is hard to describe. So, before exploring savoriness or umami, you should ask yourself the basic questions. For example, what is savory food? What makes this taste different from the other four core flavors?

In the following article, I will answer these questions and help you understand umami or savoriness better than before.

What Is Savory Food?

Let’s put it this way. Savory food is anything but not sweet or bland. When you take a bite of a savory dish, you will experience a burst of flavors in your mouth. The perfect combination of spice, salt with a creamy or meaty layer is the secret of any savory food.

what is savory food

Flavors of savory foods are enough to blow your palate and mind away. The popularity of these dishes would take us back to the 18th and 19th centuries. British people of that era enjoyed a savory dish before or after having the dessert, and the whole thing soon became a tradition.

Even to this date, people of many places have held onto that tradition. You know the savory dishes clear out your palate and make your dessert more delightful. No wonder why these foods were so popular as a final course.

Now, I have said before that savory foods do not include sweets. Right? Well, not always. You may find a hint of sweetness in the savory recipes. The sweetness balances the dishes and makes them stand out. Similarly, many desserts include savory ingredients to enhance the taste.

What Foods Are Considered Savory?

Even if you don’t know the category, you have had savory dishes all your life. Let me cut some examples of what is savory food,

  • French fries
  • Onion rings
  • Roasted chicken
  • Tacos
  • Buffalo wings
  • Hot dog
  • Sweet and sour chicken
  • Crab cake
  • Burritos
  • Nachos
  • Mozzarella stick
  • Spring roll
  • Tempura
  • Samosa
  • Pani puri
  • Dhokla
  • Banana chips
  • Pizza
  • Alo Tikki
  • Pakodas
  • Spaghetti bolognese
  • Fish and chip
  • Pita bread
  • Garlic bread

Trust me. This list can go on and on and on. Your healthy green papaya salad or staple fried rice and roasted potato also make the list of savory food.

Because of the palatable and mouth-watering taste, savory foods are the favorite choice of people of all ages. And based on the demand, this food industry is growing enormously day by day.

What Does Savory Taste Like?

If I ask you to describe sweet or sour, your answer will be associated with a piece of dessert or lemon. We do not find trouble explaining a sweet, bitter, spicy, or sour dish. It is because these are more basic and way more familiar to our taste palate.

But what if I ask you to give me detail on a savory dish? Complicated. Right?

Besides sweet, sour, spicy, and salty, savory has recently achieved recognition as the 5th basic taste. Still, there is no easy way to describe this taste as it includes more or less all the flavors.

Experts connect the savory taste to the presence of Glutamates. It is a kind of complex salt that originated from organic molecules. Slow cooking, aging ingredients, and fermentation are the creator of savory flavor.

Long processes break down original food protein and free the amino acid glutamate. The elements eventually interact with our taste buds and fill our mouths with a meaty, creamy, salty, and spicy flavor combination.

If you have tasted pizza, miso soup, parmesan salami, you know the taste of savory. But the problem is, all of these dishes also include core flavors other than savory. And separating savory from the rest is a challenging task.

However, I have a simple trick for you that will reveal the basic savory taste. Place a small amount of MSG (mono-sodium glutamate) on your tongue, and boom! Now you know how umami tastes.

As I have said before, savory is plain glutamate, and so is MSG. It is the very same element that is responsible for savoriness.

Like the sweet and sour taste, umami or savoriness will give you a memorable experience. Combine it with other core essences, and you will get the desired flavor you are looking for.

What Makes A Good Savory Dish?

As a food lover, I know that cooking is one of the hardest and underrated tasks. I always respect the dedication one puts into making his recipe extraordinary.

When it comes to preparing a dish, everyone has his style and rules. Look at Gordon Ramsay. He cooks everything with such tricks that you can not but envy.

what is savory food

So, what makes a savory dish outstanding? There is no particular answer to that question. Every chef has a distinct way of cooking, and bending a rule is not punishable here. For example, savory dishes are not supposed to be sweet. Yet, you will find a hint of sweetness in many umami dishes.

However, it does not mean you will cook anything and call it a savory recipe. Of course, not. Five untold rules are claimed to make a savory dish mouth-watering. Such as,

Focus On The Size

Though size used to play a primary role in the past, now it is invalid. As per the golden rule, the dish should be one or two mouthfuls and eaten without cutlery. Well, nowadays, no one follows this rule while preparing savory dishes.

Season With Salt

Savory foods used to be the final course, and after that, the gentlemen used to go for the liquor. And so, seasoning any savory dish with salt has become one of the basic rules. Salty taste not only aids in digestion but also makes people thirsty. However, for seasoning, salt itself is rarely used. Instead, cooks go for anchovies, cheese, Worcestershire sauce, etc.

Spice And Herbs Brings The Flavor

What is savory food without spices? Black pepper, curry powder, Cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, etc., are used in preparing a savory dish. Smoked meat, fish, and other ingredients are also added to enhance the flavor of the food.

Creamy Texture

Your savory dish is already mouthwatering with all these spices, herbs, and seasoning. However, many people use cream, soft cheese, and sauce to balance the richness of the food with creaminess.

Is Savory Food Good For Health?

As you can see, foods are going through changes, now and then. Initially, savoy dishes were popular as a final course meal to clear out the palate for drinks and sweets. But with time, savory recipes are available for breakfast, main meals, afternoon snacks, etc.

Savory dishes are full of flavors, and there is no doubt about that. But are these foods good for health?

Researchers suggest that certain types of savory foods benefit the brain by promoting healthy eating. Scientists have proven this theory with lab tools and several experiments. At the beginning of the test, participants had chicken broth with or without monosodium glutamate.

Volunteers who had umami-rich broth were able to control their urge to overeat. As per the observation, savoriness builds a successful link between the brain and self-regulation of food choice. On the other hand, the participants who avoided MSG ended up eating more.

Hence, you can conclude that umami-rich broth or starter can help reduce the obesity rate. But sadly, savory dishes do not end with healthy soup or broth. Pizza, fries, and many junk items have taken over the savory reputation. Those foods have no connection to a healthy and fit body.

Foods Packed With Umami Flavor or Savoriness

Savory items undoubtedly promote health benefits but not all of them. Natural foods that are packed with umami help in digestion and fill the stomach by eating less. As a result, weight gain is not a risk with healthy savory dishes.

So, what is savory food in nature? Foods with natural umami are,

  • Meat (Beef jerky, chicken, bacon, dry ham, pork)
  • Seaweeds
  • Tomatoes
  • Soy-based dishes (Soy sauce, soybeans, miso soup, natto)
  • Seafood (Oyster, tuna, shrimp, mackerel, scallops, sardines)
  • Aged cheese (Parmesan, Comte cheese, Cabrales, Gouda, Cheddar, Rouquefort)
  • Green tea
  • Kimchi 
  • Tree nut
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Marmite
  • Lotus root
  • Milk
  • Oyster sauce
  • Garlic
  • Bone broths
  • Green peas
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Carrot

Sweet Vs. Savory: What Is The Difference?

It is hard to describe any flavors easily. Both savory and sweet are basic tastes with distinguishing characteristics. While sweet reflects the flavors of sugar and honey, savory is filled with spice, cream, and salty seasoning.

Meaty, creamy dishes, vegetables, snacks, finger foods, or anything without sugar are savory. Again, foods prepared with natural fruit sugar, chocolate, vanilla, or caramel are considered sweet. Some experts say savory dishes should be anything but not sweet. However, bending this rule has become trendy to create unique dishes.

You will find recipes where sweet and savory dishes complement each other. Take a fancy salad with bacon, cheese, and strawberry as an example. Here both sweet and savory work hand in hand to serve the most flavorful dish.

FAQ

Is Chicken Considered Savory?

Chicken is one of the natural foods packed with savoriness. Roasted chicken, chicken broth, or any other chicken recipe is considered a savory dish. Though these foods do not require sugar to balance the taste, people often experiment to enhance the flavor by adding sweetness.

Are Steaks considered savory?

As per the golden rule, savory dishes are highly seasoned with salt. While beef itself is packed with umami and seasoned using herbs or salt, it goes without saying that steak falls under the savory category.

Is Pizza A Savory Dish?

This traditional Italian dish is savory because of all the ingredients that go to make a pizza. Toppings on the flatbread, tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, chicken, etc., are mostly packed with umami. Anyone can enjoy this savory dish at any time of the day.

Final Thoughts

It is not hard to explain what is savory food. But it is challenging to describe savoriness. Savory dishes are undoubtedly delicious, tasty, and mouth-watering. Also, these foods are beneficial to your body as long as you choose right.

Dr Hafeez Arshad

This is Dr. Hafeez. I have done my M.Phil in Pharmacology. I am a healthcare professional. My core competencies focus on writing different types of research articles/blogs regarding health sciences.

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