您现在的位置: 纽约时报中英文网 >> 纽约时报中英文版 >> 风尚 >> 正文

发现鲜味的人:鲜味究竟是什么味

更新时间:2019/6/27 21:06:43 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The man who discovered umami
发现鲜味的人:鲜味究竟是什么味

Kikunae Ikeda had been thinking a lot about soup.

关于人类饮食中的汤,池田菊苗(Kikunae Ikeda)作了大量研究。

The Japanese chemist had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, called dashi. Dashi has a very specific flavour – warm, tasty, savoury – and through laborious, lengthy separations in a chemistry lab, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. He felt sure that there was some connection between a molecule’s shape and the flavour perception it produced in humans.

这位日本化学家一直在研究一种用海藻和干鱼片熬煮的日式高汤(dashi)。日式高汤有一种非常独特的味道——新鲜、美味、可口。池田在化学实验室里,经过漫长艰难的分离操作,试图从鲜美的高汤中分离出使汤具有独特鲜味的分子。他确信分子的形状和人类所感受到的汤的鲜味之间存在某种联系。

But as it was just a few years past the turn of the 19th Century, there was not yet a great deal of evidence to support the idea.

但由于当时19世纪才结束,20世纪才刚开始,还没有大量证据支持他这一观点。

Eventually, Ikeda did manage to isolate an important taste molecule from the seaweed in dashi: the amino acid glutamate, a key building block of proteins. In a 1909 paper, the Tokyo Imperial University professor suggested that the savoury sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavour, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

最终,池田成功地从日式高汤的海藻中分离出了一种重要的味道分子:属于氨基酸的谷氨酸。这是蛋白质的重要构成要素。在1909年的一篇论文中,身为东京帝国大学(Tokyo Imperial University)教授的池田建议,谷氨酸产生的这种美妙的味道应该成为一种与酸、甜、苦、咸相当的基本味道。他将其命名为“鲜味”(umami),这是一个日语词,意为“美味的”。

It cannot be said that at the time his idea was met with thunderous applause from colleagues around the globe. For one thing, Ikeda’s paper remained in Japanese (it was eventually translated into English in 2002). Also, umami taste behaves a bit differently from the others. It does not get stronger linearly with higher levels of glutamate and other substances that trigger it, the way that sweetness does.

不能说他这个想法在当时获得了全球同行雷鸣般的掌声。首先,池田的论文一直是日文,到2002年才终于被翻译成英文。此外,鲜味特性不同于其他味道,不像甜味那样,不会随着谷氨酸和其他能产生鲜味的物质含量的增加而线性增强。

“The two are completely different types of tastes,” Ikeda notes in his paper. “If these substances can be likened to color, ‘umami’ would be yellow and sweetness red.” It was not exactly your standard scientific fare.

池田在其论文中指出,“这是两种完全不同的味道,如果把味道比作颜色,‘鲜味’是黄色,甜味是红色。”不过这并非准确的科学描述方法。

But more than a hundred years later, scientists around the world now acknowledge that umami is real, and just as much a basic taste as the others. It’s not just found in seaweed: we get a hit of umami from tomatoes, meat, broths, cheeses, and many other foods. How did this enigmatic yet brash taste, hidden in plain sight for so many years, finally achieve recognition?

但100多年后,全球各地的科学家现在都承认,鲜味是真实存在的,并且和其他几种味道一样,是食物的基本味道之一。鲜味不仅存在于海藻中,我们还在番茄、肉、汤、奶酪和其他很多食物中发现了鲜味。在很多年里,这种神秘而又强烈的味道就藏在人们的眼皮底下。那么,它最后是怎么获得认可的呢?

Over the decades, scientists began to put together how umami works. Each new insight brought the claim put forth by Ikeda into better focus. For instance, researchers identified two other molecules that could trigger the sensation: inosinate, behind the umami of bonito fish flakes, and guanylate, behind the umami of dried shitake mushrooms.

在这几十年,科学家们开始研究鲜味是如何发挥作用的。每一项新的发现都让池田的主张受到了更多关注。比如,研究人员发现了另外两种可产生鲜味的分子:让鲣鱼片味道鲜美的肌苷酸和使干香菇味道鲜美的鸟苷酸。

And interestingly, the effect of having two of these molecules in the same dish is synergistic. You get way more umami from a broth containing both bonito flakes (inosinate) and seaweed (glutamate) than you get from either alone. You get a similar effect from cooking beef (inosinate) with tomatoes (glutamate).

有趣的是,把两种可产生鲜味的分子放在同一道菜里会发生协同效应,鲜味会增强。既有鲣鱼片(肌苷酸)又有海藻(谷氨酸)的汤,要比只有鲣鱼片或海藻的汤鲜美得多。把牛肉(肌苷酸)和番茄(谷氨酸)放在一起烹制也会产生类似的效果。

Some people suggested that perhaps umami was just a kind of saltiness. After all, it often occurred in concert with that sensation. But taking away an umami-triggering substance really did dramatically change perception, researchers found. Looking closer at the nerves sending messages from the mouth to the brain suggested that umami and salt were operating via different channels.

有人认为,鲜味可能只是一种咸味。毕竟,这两种味道经常一起出现。但研究人员发现,去掉产生鲜味的食材确实会让食物的味道大变。进一步观察从口腔向大脑发送信息的神经,研究人员发现鲜味和咸味是通过不同的渠道起作用的。

A great deal of the recognition for Ikeda’s insights probably came from the discovery, about 20 years ago, that there are specific receptors in taste buds that pick up on amino acids. Multiple research groups have now reported on these receptors, which are tuned to specifically stick onto glutamate and the other umami molecules that create synergistic effects.

池田的观点之最终得到承认,很大程度上可能是因为大约20年前的一项发现:味蕾中有特定的受体接收氨基酸。现在已有多个研究团队公布了有关这些受体的研究结果。通过调节,这些受体会目标明确地粘附在谷氨酸和其他产生协同效应的鲜味分子上。

In a way, it isn’t surprising that our bodies evolved a way to sense the presence of amino acids, since they are crucial for our survival. Breast milk has about the same levels of glutamate as the dashi broth studied by Ikeda, so we are probably quite familiar with the taste before we can even walk.

在某种程度上,我们的身体进化到能够感受到氨基酸的美味是不足为奇的,因为氨基酸对我们的生存至关重要。母乳的谷氨酸含量和池田研究的日式高汤大致相同,因此我们可能在会走路之前,就已经对这种味道相当熟悉了。

Ikeda, for his part, found a seasoning manufacturer and started to produce his own line of umami seasoning. “I believe that the time has come to revolutionise the production method of this important seasoning,” he wrote at the end of his 1909 paper, in hopes that better-tasting food would improve people’s nutrition. The product, a monosodium glutamate (MSG) powder called Aji-No-Moto, is still made today. (Although rumours have swirled periodically that eating too mush MSG can give people headaches and other health problems, the US Food and Drug Administration has found no evidence for such claims. It just makes food taste more savoury.)

池田找到一家调味品生产商,开始生产自己的鲜味调味品系列。“我认为,是时候彻底改变这种重要调味品的生产方式了,”他在1909年那篇论文的末尾写道,希望更美味的食物能改善人们的营养。这款名为“味之素”(Aji-No-Moto)的粉状味精至今仍在生产。尽管不时有传言称食用太多味精可导致头痛和其他健康问题,但美国食物药品管理局(Food and Drug Administration)尚未发现能够证明此类说法的证据。迄今所知,味精的作用只是让食物变得更加美味而已。

The story of umami might make you wonder, are there other basic tastes out there that we just haven’t gotten around to noticing? Some researchers believe we may have a sixth basic taste for fat. There are some good candidates for fat receptors in the tongue, and it is clear that the body responds strongly to fat’s presence in food.

鲜味的故事可能会让你怀疑,还有没有其他尚未被人类注意到的基本味道?一些研究人员认为,我们可能还有一种基本味觉:油腻感。人类舌头上的一些物质完全可以充当接收脂肪的受体,并且人体显然对食物中存在的脂肪味道反应强烈。

However, by the time fat levels are high enough that we can actually taste them consciously, we tend not to like the flavour very much. So the question becomes, can something be a basic taste if we don’t really taste it, per se? How much of taste is about encouraging or discouraging us to eat something, and how much of it is the body, unbeknownst to us, keeping track of what’s coming down the chute?

然而,当脂肪含量高到我们能够有意识地尝出它们的味道时,我们往往会不太喜欢这种味道。因此问题就变成了,如果我们其实尝不出某种味道,它本身还能算作是一种基本味道吗?当我们想吃或不想吃某种东西时,味道起了多大的作用?人体,在不为我们所知的情况下,又在多大程度上掌控着顺着人体食道而下的食物?

Further deepening the mystery of flavour, Japanese scientists have introduced the idea of kokumi to the wider world. “Kokumi means a taste that cannot be expressed by the five basic tastes, and also includes marginal tastes of the basic tastes, such as thickness, growth (or mouthfullness), continuity, and harmony,” reads the site of the Umami Information Center (UIC), a group for the promotion of umami research. Triggered by a trio of linked amino acids, the kokumi sensation adds to the pleasure of certain kinds of foods, most of them savoury.

日本科学家还向全世界引入了“厚味”(kokumi)的概念,这进一步加剧了味道的神秘感。日本促进鲜味研究的组织鲜味信息中心(Umami Information Center, UIC)的网站如此写道:“厚味是一种无法用5种基本味道来表达的味道,但又包含了5种基本味道的边缘味道,比如厚重、浓烈(或称满口)、持续和协调,”由3种相互关联的氨基酸产生的厚味,会增加某些食物带来的愉悦感,其中大部分是咸味食物。

Harold McGee, the food writer, had a chance to try some kokumi-inducing preparations of tomato sauce and cheese-flavoured potato chips at the 2008 Umami Summit in San Francisco under the auspices of the UIC. He wrote, in terms that pique the imagination of anyone curious about new taste sensations:

在UIC赞助的2008年洛杉矶鲜味峰会(Umami Summit)上,美食作家麦吉(Harold McGee)有机会品尝了一些能够产生厚味的番茄酱和奶酪味薯片制剂。他的话激起了所有对新味道充满好奇者的想象:

“The flavours seemed amplified and balanced, as if the volume control and had been turned up and an equaliser turned on. They also seemed somehow to cling to my mouth – a tactile feeling – and to last longer before fading away.”

“味道似乎被放大了,但又保持均衡,像是音量被调高了,但同时也打开了均衡器。它们似乎以某种方式粘在了我的嘴巴上,一种可以触摸到的感觉,但持续的时间更长。”

“全文请访问纽约时报中文网,本文发表于纽约时报中文网(http://cn.nytimes.com),版权归纽约时报公司所有。任何单位及个人未经许可,不得擅自转载或翻译。订阅纽约时报中文网新闻电邮:http://nytcn.me/subscription/”

相关文章列表