What do tomatoes, cheese and mackerel have in common?
They are all responsible for umami, the slightly mysterious fifth basic taste now counted alongside sweetness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness. Umami is often likened to savoriness, but defining exactly what it tastes like can be tricky.
If you have two mini-tomatoes and chew them 30 times before swallowing you should feel a strange sensation that spreads in your cheeks. That, according to chef Kiyomi Mikuni, is the umami taste.
Wasabi lovers may want to add more than a small pinch to their soy sauce the next time they go to their local sushi bar. The green paste, made from a fiery root called Wasabia Japonica, it is not only the perfect accompaniment to raw fish - it has also been found to possess numerous health benefits.
Mentions of the now internationally popular condiment have been found in Japanese manuscripts dating as far back as the 8th century, when it was used more as a medical herb than a complement to food.
According to wasabi expert Naohide Kinae, recent studies have shown that the root has characteristics suppressing a bacterium responsible for many stomach related diseases, such as gastric inflammation and possibly even stomach cancer. Some have promoted it as a means to prevent food poisoning, one of the reasons why it is often served alongside raw fish.
In Japan they say that the customer is God and even a machine is expected to pay its respects.
It’s a saying that supports the idea that Japan is the land of the vending machine with perhaps more machines per person than anywhere else in the world. In Japan’s cities they can be seen on most street corners dispensing sodas and hot coffee, but also more far-out items like ice cream, french fries, umbrellas and clothes.
They’ve even made it to the top of Mount Fuji, providing hungry hikers with hot, steamy instant noodles at the summit.
The country even has its own association of vending machine manufactures, the JVMA, which notes that the number of automatic dispensers in Japan, including ticket machines, amounts to over 5 million. That's a human-to-machine ratio of around 24 to one.
Tokyo (CNN) - A Japanese health official downplayed the dangers Tuesday after cesium contaminated meat from six Fukushima cows was delivered to Japanese markets and probably ingested.
Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of consumer affairs and food-safety, said he hoped to head off any overreactions.
"If we were to eat the meat everyday, then it would probably be dangerous," Hosono said at a news conference Tuesday. "But if it is consumed only in small portions, I don't think it would have any long-lasting effects on the human body."
The meat, delivered late last month, has made its way to consumers and most likely has been ingested, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said Monday evening. This was preceded by another recent discovery of radiation in the meat of 11 cows delivered to Tokyo from the same farm.
Read the full story: "Radioactive meat circulating on Japanese market"