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Of Umami and Salted Caramel Ice cream

posted Sep 21, 2015, 1:37 AM by Uday Jagasia

I've always found it very surprising how hordes of regular folk find a flavor or taste very appealing. Take for example salted Caramel. It is in every thing. Ice cream, coffee, peanuts, yogurt, chocolate, shakes.... The list is endless.

But Salt in Ice cream!!!!! . Never in a million years would we have even looked at it let alone taste it just a few years ago. But now all it takes is a Cooking show to drip feeds this counter culture of food paring, and voila!! We humans salute this magical combination of salt and caramel.

So what is salt? What does salt do to food? Ferran Adrià once declared salt "the only product that changes cuisine". This is because, as he and all seasoned cooks know, sodium chloride not only adds saltiness, which human beings innately adore (because we need it to live), but it also skews the overall flavor to positive effect. It makes food sing by suppressing bitterness, enhancing sweet and savory, and turning up the volume on the aromas. But how on earth does it do all this? The magic lies in the taste system, our glorious body holds together. 

Here are some cool facts about our taste system


  • A single taste bud contains 50–100 taste cells representing5-taste sensations (so the classic textbook pictures showing separate taste areas on the tongue are wrong).


  • Each taste cell has receptors on its apical surface. These are trans-membrane proteins which


      1. Admit the ions that give rise to the sensation of salty;

      2. Bind to the molecules that give rise to the sensations of sweet, bitter, and umami.

  • A single taste cell seems to be restricted to expressing only a single type of receptor (except for bitter receptors).

  • A stimulated taste receptor cell triggers action potentials in a nearby sensory neuron leading back to the brain.

  • However, a single sensory neuron can be connected to several taste cells in each of several different taste buds.The sensation of taste — like all sensations — resides in the brain.

  • And in mice, at least, the sensory neurons for four of the tastes (not sour) transmit their information to four discrete areas of the brain.

Wow... no wonder my tongue can straight away tell me if my food is over-seasoned .In the pantheon of great chefs and food scientists you will always have salt as a crucial part of the recipe base. Some recipes ask for salt to be added, and then removed, or at the end of the finishing process. But when adding salt to caramel the magic of gastronomy plays out like a smooth ballad with crisp lyrics and a memorable tune. Well, here is why we find that salted caramel ice cream mind blowing.... Our intestines are full of sugar sensors, and some of them are in your mouth too. Scientists already knew that many human organs have sugar sensors, which are there to help process glucose and insulin in your blood. It turns out, however, that these sensors have a different job in your mouth. 

An intestinal glucose sensor also found to be located in the sweet-sensitive taste cells may hold the key to the mystery of our sweet taste. Why would just a pinch of table salt taste sweet or salt added to baked goods, ice cream or a shake enhances this amazing sweet taste. It is known as SGLT1, this sensor is a transporter that moves glucose into the sweet taste cell when sodium is present, thus triggering the cell to register sweetness.

Well, the next time you taste a scoop of salted caramel ice cream goodness, think of this amazing co relation between your taste buds, your brain and your intestine. Basically a normal working day for this incredible body of ours. Some creative genius (God) I must say. .
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