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A series that will leave you licking your fingers
In The 5 Tastes of Joël the self-proclaimed omnivore and culinary journalist Joël Broekaert takes the viewer along on an adventurous investigation around the world and into the history behind the five basic tastes. Joël has dedicated his life to everything pertaining to food, tasting and tastes.
But what are sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami exactly? Why do these tastes exist? Why can we taste them? Why are we always searching for sweet things, what made us decide to start eating bitter things and why was salt such a scarce commodity in the past?
In every episode one basic taste is focused upon. Joël takes the viewer along to see scientists, chefs and tastemakers and travels in each episode to extraordinary locations around the world where something unique can be learned about the taste featured in that specific episode.
Episode 1: Sweet
Why do we like sweet?
In the first episode Joël discovers why everyone, young and old, everywhere around the world, loves sweet things. Sweet is the first taste we experience. That is why Joël returns to the roots of our love for sweet and tastes to see whether or not breast milk still gives a good feeling. In Ethiopia, the largest honey producer in Africa, Joël goes along on a dangerous journey, and to the place where forest honey is still harvested in the authentic manner. In order to taste this Joël has to endure some rather painful hardships.
At an old sugar plantation in Suriname he discovers how we as human beings are becoming increasingly more efficient in the production of sugar. On Dutch fields there are several million sugar beets being harvested every year and this in turn results in new challenges – how can we prevent our love for sweet from going too far?
Episode 2: Bitter
Why do we eat bitter?
Babies are horrified by bitter tastes and most children want nothing to do with Brussels sprouts or endive. Bitter serves as a natural warning from nature, but why do we still choose to eat it? Joël travels to Suriname, where one of the bitterest vegetables in the world – the sopropo – forms an important part of the food eaten there.
Evolution biologist Roy Erkens explains why our distant ancestors started eating bitter tastes. In our own Western diet we have also come to appreciate the bitter tastes. With coffee expert Kees Kraakman Joël investigates why we are so eager to start the day with such a bitter drink and Fenny van Wees takes him along in the history of the bitter, from medicinal elixirs to popular drinks.
We have learned to appreciate bitter tastes, especially if we bring it into perfect balance with the other tastes. Chef Leonardo Pacenti knows this as none other and creates the perfect bitter dish.
Episode 3: Salt
Why do we like to eat salty things so much?
Everyone has a pot of salt in the kitchen. Why do we like to add salt to our food so often? And where does it actually come from? Joël travels to the hottest place on earth: the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia. On this gigantic salt flat Afar nomads have been chopping blocks of salt by hand for centuries.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands salt is harvested my machines. In an enormous salt factory in Hengelo Joël witnesses how salt is no longer a valuable product, but still is pumped by the ton from the ground.
What does all of that salt do that we ingest with our food? Master Chef Angelique Schmeinck lets Joël experience what happens when for example you combine salt with sweet or bitter things. It is revealed that salt plays tricks with our taste buds in a surprising way.
Episode 4: Sour
Why are there sour things on our menu?
Sauerkraut, pickled pearl onions: there are numerous sour products on our menus. And yet sour is more of a warning from nature rather than an invitation to eat something. So why did we start eating it? Joël travels to the country where the enormously popular dish ceviche – fish prepared with sour – comes from: Peru. Here limes are the national pride and joy and they know like none others what you can do with sour flavors.
For centuries sour has served as an important manner in which to preserve food. Joël learned the art of fermentation from the pickling business De Leeuw. This family business began with the wooden carts that many Jewish families used to pull through the streets.
In Japan sour is a lifestyle: vegetables preserved in sour are a component of every meal. For them sour is irreplaceable. But when is sour healthy and when is sour too sour? It’s up to science to give Joël an answer.
Episode 5: Umami
What is umami?
Umami is our youngest basic taste. It wasn’t officially proven until 2002 that our tongue actually recognized the taste. In Japan however they have known this for a very long time. Joël travels to the source of this hearty taste to discover what umami is and why it remains so unknown to us here is the West.
Umami was discovered by the Japanese professor Ikeda in Japanese seaweed, which forms the basis for most Japanese dishes. In the dried seaweed he found the substance that is responsible for the umami taste. Joël learns how traditional seaweed is processed and slowly pushes on to the nucleus of the taste.
Every country has its own typical umami taste. One of the most intense dishes is the Swedish surströmming: fermented fish with such an overwhelming stench that Joël can only eat it outside with top chef Rikard Andersson.
By a tasting panel at the University of Wageningen Joël is taught the trick to recognizing umami. Knowledge he is able to put to good use with Executive Sushi Chef Takahashi in Kyoto in Japan. This umami expert allows him to taste the most perfect umami dish. Will Joël be able to recognize the taste?