What Is Seasoning?


Why do we use seasoning?

Why do we use seasoning? It’s an easy question. We use seasoning to make food delicious. As I mentioned in a previous post, deliciousness has many aspects. Seasoning mainly affects to the taste and smell. Let’s think about seasoning from these two aspects.

Classify seasoning

I need to repeat myself a little, seasoning affects two aspects of deliciousness.
Taste is constructed from salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. Of course, smell affects taste a lot. Though the smell has a great influence in taste, let’s think about these two aspects separately for now. Then, we can divide seasoning to three groups.

・seasoning for only taste
・seasoning for both taste and smell
・seasoning for only smell

Let’s check each a little deeper.

Seasoning for only taste

sweetwhite sugar
sourcitric acid
We can say that these ways are seasoning without smell.
Sugar can give bitter taste and smell when it’s burned, but it’s basically a seasoning for sweet taste.
Umami reminds some people of dashi. It’s easy to remember the smell of dashi, so dashi is the seasoning for both taste and smell. Ajinomoto is a seasoning to give only umami taste.

Seasoning for both taste and smell

saltysoy sauce, miso, herb salt etc.
sweetbrown sugar, honey, mirin, fruit vinegar etc.
sourvinegar, fruit vinegar etc.
bitternone (olive oil)
umamidashi soup, dashi powder, soy sauce, miso etc.
Vinegar is a seasoning to add sour taste. Acetic acid, which gives sour taste, is easy to vapor, so we feel taste and smell together.
Some seasonings add specific tastes like soy sauce, miso and fruit vinegar.
We have seasoning that we add for a stronger smell, like garlic soy sauce.

Some drinks and foods like coffee and chocolate give a bitter taste. When think about seasoning thet gives bitterness, olive oil is a little bitter. But how often do you feel olive oil’s bitter taste? Surely when we dip bread, and when else? We don’t use it so much for the bitter taste.

Seasonings only for smell

Pepper, herbs, garlic, shiso etc.

They are specifically called spices.
When you eat a shiso leaf, you can feel and smell a plant taste, even though in mouth taste is strong it is so weak to withstand heating that it doesn’t affect the taste of food.

Extra edition

Strictly speaking, taste is consisted of five different aspects that are salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. They are wide concepts that help you to think about the wide meaning of taste. Think about them in the way you could think about compass, they won’t tell you in what address home is but surely give you a direction to head to.

spicy taste

Spicy is not a taste. It’s a stimulation. But we use it as taste in daily life. We have spicy taste category in our blog.

oil and fat taste

The sensor for oil and fat are already found in our tongues, and it’s said that fat and oil become a 6th taste. If so, it’s the same as another deliciousness system that helps us feel butter taste as delicious.

Why do we need to classify?

We classify seasonings as above. Then, why do we need to know about it? Because we need the information in cooking. Having a knowledge about seasoning and taste is like having that compass that show a direction. Even though the food served is delicious in theory, it depends on your subjective preference whether we find it delicious or not. It means, even though there are good recipes, there is possibility that you don’t find them delicious. In that case, if you understand about seasoning, you can play with the taste of that recipe in nice and effective ways. I’ll write the details in the next post.

The other effect of seasoning

Seasoning makes it’s mark to the appearance of food. We serve a yellow omelet with red ketchup and put parsley on the surface of a cream soup. Thanks to these, foods looks better and our appetite is increased. In Japanese food, we have “a brown problem”.
We use soy sauce and miso for a great deal of Japanese foods. It happens often that all foods we cook have a brownish color. They are still delicious though.


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