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I have seen mushroom and wakame as ingredients in fish sauce substitutes but does pineapple just take the cake?

A number of recipes are simmering fresh chopped pineapple along with salty ingredients before straining: does that add umami or in any way help extract umami?

  • This would make an excellent source of the sourness and sweetness to a dish at the same time... Salt is an excellent addition to pineapple; in SE Asia, it is common to see table salt being consumed with pineapple, and Malaysia and Singapore is famous for pineapple and fish curry. IMO pineapple is an excellent flavour balancer and adds umami to the dish... – Adrian Hum Nov 27 '15 at 5:26
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    Salt is not infrequently recommended in thai recipes as a better substitute for fish sauce than soy sauces etc ... probably because the role of the fish sauce is mostly adding salt, just as you would with Light Soy Sauce in chinese recipes... – rackandboneman Nov 27 '15 at 8:44
  • yes, salt must be compensated for in recipes omitting fish sauce. but the umami? – Pat Sommer Nov 28 '15 at 5:53
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    This has been edited to ask if pineapple adds umami, but in the original form it appeared to be asserting that it added umami and asking... how much? Can you clarify/confirm? Are you talking about recipes for the fish sauce substitute itself including pineapple? Are you maybe just asking what it adds to the sauce? – Cascabel Nov 30 '15 at 3:25
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    What raw pineapple MIGHT do - pure speculation - is split some proteins that are in the recipe anyway into their compound aminos (by merit of the proteases which make raw pineapple tickle your mouth, not by smashing them to pieces with the pineapple :). That could indeed help with umami. – rackandboneman Nov 30 '15 at 11:28
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Umami is the result of glutamic acid (ions) getting in touch with the tongue. Glutamic acid in fish sauce is the result of a fermentation process, which involves bacteria doing the work of breaking down fish components. Glutamic acid easily dissolves in water though. This is after all, how it was detected millennia ago and centuries ago verified by creating glutamic acid salts: Cooking seaweed in water and boiling the result down.

The wakame is added due to its natural content of glutamic acid. There isn't anything special the pineapple can/has do to it that regular water can't do.

Therefore the answer is: No, the purpose of the pineapple is not to increase the glutamic acid of the substitute.

  • Will vote this the correct answer soon; just want 100% sure... as rackandboneman hypothesized, something might be going on. Over on veganmiam.com, she says pineapple juice "produces the funky smell". Wish there was a glutamate test strip like for PH that would show an increase with the addition of juice. – Pat Sommer Dec 1 '15 at 1:42

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