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© Quentin Bacon / Chicken Parmesan
Umami—a Japanese word that means "the essence of deliciousness," a.k.a the fifth taste, is now equated with glutamate, an amino acid found in some foods, but an Art of Eating essay published online yesterday delves deeper into the history of the once-elusive taste and its importance. According to writer Rowan Jacobsen, many cultures loved umami even before it was identified: The Chinese have soy sauce, Koreans devour kimchi, Australians use vegemite and Americans adore ketchup. By recognizing umami as a separate taste with its own identity, Jacobsen believes we open the doors to more delicious food combinations. “We can perceive it, think about it, play with it, and realize when it’s needed,” Jacobsen writes. “We can understand what anchovies and soy sauce have in common, and by understanding that, can appreciate their differences.” This Chicken Parmesan with Pepperoni features a triptych of umami-packed ingredients—Parmesan, tomato and pepperoni—in a quick weeknight dish.