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What's up with tomato paste. I think it provides a unique taste you couldn't get with fresh tomato.. but why?? In specific, what's the difference between cooking fresh tomatoes or mixing tomato paste with water, both to the same consistency. There is a difference in flavor. but why?

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Tomatoes contain high levels of glutamic acid and its sodium salt (mono sodium glutimate or MSG). In fact, the pulp contains over 4 times as much as the flesh of the tomato. In a tomato paste, the concentration of glutimates is even higher. The "unique" flavor is not only concentrated tomato, but the umami that comes with it. Tomato paste packs a very high umami punch that distinguishes it from fresh or canned tomatoes.

By the way, next time someone suggests that they want to avoid MSG, ask them if they also avoid tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and many other ingredients where it is naturally occurring. Lot's of good info here.

  • Thanks. But is the MSG produced during the production of the paste or is it just concentrated by removing water? If the latter is the case, wouldn't adding water recreate the flavor of cooked tomatoes? – IanDsouza Dec 3 '17 at 18:29
  • @IanDsouza as far as I understand it, MSG and glutamic acid are not produced when tomato paste is made, they are just concentrated. Adding water will certainly dilute the paste and the flavor, but it is not going to taste exactly the same as beginning with fresh or canned tomato. This might be desirable. Much depends on the dish and final result you are looking for. – moscafj Dec 3 '17 at 20:41
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    Tomato paste is also cooked for an extended time; this caramelizes some of the sugars in the tomato and changes the balance of aromatics. You'll get some of the same effect from lengthy cooking of a tomato sauce. – logophobe Dec 5 '17 at 20:09
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    I agree. Certain chemical reaction might be taking place during the preparation of the paste that cannot be reversed by diluting the paste. – IanDsouza Dec 6 '17 at 3:07
  • "In a tomato paste, the concentration of glutimates is even higher." Why? No difference at all. If you started with (say) 20 tomatoes, whether via "paste" or just in to the pot, you have the same identical number of molecules of MSG. (I think?) – Fattie Jan 8 '18 at 16:34

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