More Retronasal Bonito, Monsieur?

Generally, if people decide that a food is too bland at the dinner table, they add salt. However, more and more people are being made aware of the problems that salt (in particular, sodium) can cause to the body: high blood pressure, kidney problems, and even stroke. So what do we do?

Add dried bonito stock, according to Japanese researchers.

Bonito is a type of fish, and dried bonito stock and flakes are commonly used in Japanese cooking, especially soups. They are associated with umami flavour.

Bonito Stock

Bonitooooooooooo.. Used in miso soup!

The interesting part here is how we as humans are able to perceive the smell of bonito. It doesn’t come through sniffing food through our nose (known as the orthonasal pathway). Instead, we perceive the aroma of bonito through the retronasal pathway- that is, after we chew (and even swallow) our food, the aroma is released and travels from our mouth into our nasal cavity.    

Retronasal Bonito

A photo of the setup used to provide retronasal bonito aroma (taken from the article).

Using two forms of bonito stock (arabushi and karebushi), the researchers tested if retronasal bonito enhanced the saltiness of foods (which it didn’t) and also if it increased the palatability of food (which it did).

While this is all well and good, one thing that the researchers note is that bonito, while delicious and flavoursome and enjoyed by many Japanese, is not as appreciated in other cultures. Therefore, bonito may not be the answer to everyone’s low-salt-tasteless-diet woes.  

The Article: Retronasal Odor of Dried Bonito Stock Induces Umami Taste and Improves the Palatability of Saltiness

The Authors: Mariko Manabe, Sanae Ishizaki, Umi Yamagishi, Tatsuhito Yoshioka and Nozomu Oginome

The Journal: Journal of Food Chemistry, 2014

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One thought on “More Retronasal Bonito, Monsieur?

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