Sweet plus umami is poised to be a hot food trend in 2021

26 February, 2021

So what are the combinations you should look out for?

By now, most people know about the five major tastes in foods: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami (also sometimes referred to as savoury). The interplay of these tastes drives chefs and food professionals to explore new combinations and create new flavour sensations.

The pairing of sweet and umami is being predicted by several industry pundits as one of the key food trends to watch in 2021. 

So, what does this mean and what are some of the flavour pairings you can expect to see?

Pairings in both sweet and savoury dishes

Some common umami-rich foods are things like shellfish, fish sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms, yeast extract, cheeses, green tea and soy sauce. These are being used in a variety of ways with sweet tastes in both savoury dishes and desserts. Examples include:

Of course, cheese fans have known for a long time just how tongue tantalisingly delicious umami and sweet tastes can be. A sharp wedge of Parmesan or cheddar with slices of pear or a smear of fig or quince paste is a classic combo for good reason. The difference this year is the straying into unexpected combinations.

Chocolate and umami

H2: Chocolate and umami

Of course, it might have been a marketing ploy, but Cadbury’s 2015 controversial limited edition Dairy Milk with Vegemite was actually a pairing of sweet and umami tastes. It was divisive (like Vegemite itself), but the rationale behind the combination was actually pretty sound. (For what it’s worth, once we got past the ‘what the hell’ factor, we actually liked it!)

Another cult classic you might have tried and enjoyed is the green tea Kitkats. Umami-rich green tea is infused in sweet white chocolate to create a delicious treat. Once only available in Japan and prized as a gift from returning travellers, Kitkat Green Tea is now available directly in Australia including Woolworths at Chatswood Interchange. Given we disappointingly can’t get to Tokyo any time soon, this is one small consolation! 

Umami caramel

The caramelisation of umami-rich foods like fish sauce and miso is one of the newer ways the sweet plus umami mash-up is coming to life on menus. These flavours are being used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Here in Chatswood, an example is the miso caramel and peanut brittle ice cream at Akira. But globally, there’s a lot more experimentation taking place. Dishes we’ve seen talked about include:

  • Sea vegetables paired with dried cherries and raisins
  • A pannacotta with miso peanut butter
  • Miso butterscotch caramel corn
  • Crispy Brussels sprouts with miso-maple butter
  • Black cod with caramelised miso
  • Sweet crispy rice treat infused with pork floss, nori and fish sauce caramel
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