Anarchy in a Jar

The revolution starts in your mouth // Small-batch condiments made in Brooklyn

Umami Shiso Fine Mustard

UncategorizedLaena McCarthy

Say it out loud and it's pretty funny: "umami shiso fine". Say it with a little swagger, maybe a slight Puerto Rican or Dominican accent. Our newest invention in the Anarchy kitchens is UMAMI SHISO FINE MUSTARD, and it's just what it sounds like: umami + shiso. How do we make it? We take mustard seeds and "pickle" them in a brine of rice vinegar, green tea, fresh shiso leaf, fresh garlic and ginger, fish sauce and Korean red chile flake.

This flavor reminds me of the time Kheedim from Mamo O's Kimchee and I made our "Anarchy Mama" jam-chee years ago -- the casualty of a radio show in which we were competing against which of our products was sexier (I won, no surprise). It was basically a kimchee flavored marmalade, an aphrodisiac and surprisingly delicious.

Mustard is a marvel. You take a basic item, dried mustard seeds which are harvested once the mustard plant (mustard leaves are delicious as well) has flowered, and add liquid + your imagination = limitless mustard condiments. Whiskey + apple mustard? Yes. Jasmine tea + ginger + lemongrass mustard? Yep. Port + plum mustard? You bet. The sky is the limit. We'll try and control ourselves.

Wait, but what's umami? Let me quote one of my favorite people, Robert Krulwich of Radiolab (please read this in his voice, if you can):

"UMAMI. Glutamate is found in most living things, but when they die, when organic matter breaks down, the glutamate molecule breaks apart. This can happen on a stove when you cook meat, over time when you age a parmesan cheese, by fermentation as in soy sauce or under the sun as a tomato ripens. When glutamate becomes L-glutamate, that's when things get "delicious." L-glutamate, said Ikeda, is a fifth taste. When Escoffier created veal stock, he was concentrating umami. When Japanese made their dashi, they were doing the same thing. When you bite into an anchovy, they are "like glutamate speedballs. They are pure umami," Jonah [Lehrer] writes. "Aristotle was wrong. Plato was wrong. We have five tastes, not four. But when Ikeda's findings were published," Jonah says, "nobody believes him.  So Who Was Right?

It turns out, almost 100 years after Escoffier wrote his cookbook and Ikeda wrote his article, a new generation of scientists took a closer look at the human tongue and discovered, just as those two had insisted, that yes, there is a fifth taste. Humans do have receptors for L-glutamate and when something is really, really yummy in a non-sweet, sour, bitter or salty way, that's what you're tasting. In 2002, this became the new view. It's in the textbooks now and scientists decided to call this "new" taste, in Ikeda's honor, "umami." If you want to get an umami headache, add some monosodium glutamate to your next bowl of noodles."

Read the full story at NPR.orgyellow-mustard-seeds

Note: I'd like to take credit for the name of this mustard, but it actually came from my much wittier friend, the wonderfully inventive curiosity-driven designer Caroline Brown.