Iya Villania, TV host and mommy of three, is on a mission to dispel myths about umami. And she’s doing it one “Umami Mommy” episode at a time. Each show lasts for five minutes and it features the basics and truth behind umami and its benefits, up to nutritious, delicious, yet easy-to-make recipes.Villania and her guests in the show tackle myths and misconceptions about umami head-on. One of them is the safeness of this seasoning for children.
“It will surprise you how early your kids have had a taste of umami without you even knowing! It’s one of the first tastes we experience, before we’re even born,” she said. “During gestation, a baby gets to sample various tastes from its mother’s amniotic fluid, which contains glutamate in the highest concentration. Our breast milk, like the amniotic fluid, is rich in glutamate. That means from the womb pa lang and to their breast milk, babies are already familiar with the umami taste.”
The umami taste is a taste category, along with sweet, sour, salt, and bitter. It is described as savory deliciousness. It’s something Villania makes sure is present in the meals she prepares for her family. She likes to add seasoning to Filipino food like adobo, sinigang and tinola for them.
“The use of AJI-NO-MOTO Umami Seasoninghelps me turn simple dishes and even vegetable dishes into something tasty without having to worry about excessive salt content,” she said.
“It’s important for me that the kids enjoy what they eat and I get to encourage them to eat nutritious food regularly. Of course, I always do my best to ensure they have the right meal proportions and make their meals balanced.” She said that her own mother used it when she was young. They got their supply from the Asian grocery store in Australia. But somewhere along the way, she stopped using them in her meals because of misconceptions. It’s easy to understand why.
There is a misconception about MSG (monosodium glutamate). The tattling began when a doctor in the 1960s published in a medical journal about MSG’s supposed side effects such as dizziness and migraine. It didn’t help that MSG sounded like something invented in a laboratory.
What it means to mothers like Villania is that an addition of umami in foods means enhancing its flavor. More flavor means less need for salt, making it a healthier option. Ensuring that their family eats a balanced diet and proper nutrition is very important for an active family.
“Food gives them energy to perform in their daily activities and serves as their shield against sickness. We should eat to not just stay full and happy, but really to stay healthy,” she said. This is important for Villania because meal time plays a vital role for her and her family. “For (my husband) Drew (Arellano) and I, it’s often a challenge for us to all be together during meal time, but we try our best. I do find that it’s a great opportunity for the kids to learn to become independent,” she said.
“When the food is good, eating on their own is so easy! That’s why I always want to make sure that the food we have on the table is not only a source of good nutrition but something they enjoy.”
She also revealed that coconut chicken curry is a dish she likes to make with her husband. “It’s special because it was a recipe Drew and I both learned how to cook when we were newly married.” What makes the dish special is gata or coconut milk. She did admit that it’s been a while since they made the dish.
“I’m excited to make it again, but this time with some additional umami goodness! I’m sure it’ll be even more amazing,” she said.