The kokumi effect
Chanterelle mushrooms give savoury dishes a unique complex flavour, which experts refer to as the kokumi effect. A research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology has developed a method to quantify chanterelle-specific key substances that contribute to this effect. This method can also be used for quality control.
Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) are one of the most popular mushrooms in Germany. Not only do the mushrooms have a unique flavour profile, they also function as taste enhancers, due to their delicate fruity aroma and aromatic, slightly bitter taste profile. Chanterelles also lend dishes a well-rounded mouthfeel and a lingering, rich flavour.
“Using the ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry method developed by our team, we are now the first to accurately quantify the key substances in chanterelles that are responsible for the kokumi effect,” said Dr Verena Mittermeier from the TUM Chair of Food Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science.
As Dr Mittermeier’s findings show, the effect is caused by natural substances derived from fatty acids. Storage conditions, such as duration of storage and temperature, affect the composition and concentration of these fatty acid derivatives in the mushrooms. Whether the mushrooms are stored whole or chopped also plays a role.
Food chemist Andreas Dunkel from the Leibniz-Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich states that some of these derivatives are specific to chanterelles and can therefore be used as markers to control the quality of mushroom products. These findings could be used to systematically improve the flavour profile of mushroom dishes or other savoury dishes using natural substances.
“Kokumi is a Japanese word that does not refer to a specific flavour quality such as salty or sweet,” said Dunkel. Instead, the fatty acid derivatives modulate the sensory characteristics of other ingredients.
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