“Once you meat me, you will be soy turned on.”

Umami. Glutamates and nucleotides. DNA and RNA. And why meat and soy sauce go so well together.soy sauce glutmates sodium chloride nucleotides taste receptors umami

1-Minute NomNom

Why do soy sauce and meat go so well together? Because meat can turn soy sauce on!


salting chicken makes them juicier - - soy sauce does that tooSoy sauce contains sodium chloride (NaCl i.e. table salt) that can make our meat juicier and taste sweeter (read all about how salt does all this in the 1-Minute NomNom “It’s i(r)onic that NaCl makes meat juicier” and “As-salt on sweet pineapples“).

But the real kick comes from soy sauce’s umami flavors. Umami is the fifth primary taste (the others being sweet, sour, salty, bitter), and is used to describe a unique delicious savory sensation.

glutamates soy sauce

Glutamates refers to chemical compounds of glutamic acid and its ions and salts

This sensation is trigged by umami taste receptors on our tongue when they detect the glutamates found in soy sauce. Glutamates are amino acids, and on their own, they have…

“a relatively weak umami taste. But when tasted in combination with… nucleotides… the sensation of umami is greatly magnified… When glutamates and nucleotides are present at equal levels in food the strength of umami taste is as much as 20 to 30 times greater than glutamates alone.” (Source: Cook’s Illustrated – The Science of Good Cooking)

Where do these amazing nucleotides come from? Nucleotides are “chemical compounds, [and] the building blocks of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA“. Because they “make up the genetic material (DNA and RNA) of all living things“, they are found in the foods we eat. Such as a piece of meat.

Nucleotides play an important stabilization role. Without them, even though the umami taste receptors are turned “on” by the glutamates, this “on” state is not a stable state. This could result in a relatively weak umami sensation.nucleotides stabilize the "on" switch on the umami taste receptors triggered by glutamatesWhen nucleotides are present however, they stabilize the “on” state, thus magnifying the umami taste. According to Cook’s Illustrated, nucleotides do this by “altering the shape of the glutamate receptors” so that they have a better fit with the glutamates. This is what gives us a stronger umami sensation.

soy sauce glutamates nucleotides salt And so soy sauce goes soy well with meat because the meat’s nucleotides keep the umami taste receptors for soy sauce’s glutamates turned “on”. I was not kidding, right?


Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 6.02.39 pm

Like this? Keep us turned on by liking me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!

photos: in order – depositphotos/Kesu01karandaev;  ramirezomdesigner491; Grounder; akulamatiau


Leave a Reply