Umami - The Fifth Taste
Umami, "the fifth sense", "savoriness" or also known as "the fifth taste", has been proposed as one of the basic tastes sensed by specialised receptor cells present on the tongue. The word "umami" is a Japanese noun, meaning "good flavour" or "a good taste". In English, it is often described as "brothy", "meaty" or "savory".
Whatever the correct description, the "umami" flavour is commonly found in savory products such as meat, cheese, mushrooms... and chilli!
Here's The Scientific Bit!
The umami taste is created on the tongue when carboxylate anion of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid common in meat, cheese, broth, stock, and other protein-heavy foods, is detected.
Add a Little Salt...
Salts of glutamic acid (glutamates) ionize to give the same carboxylate form and therefore the same taste. For this reason, they are used as flavour enhancers. Hence why chilli can lift that otherwise bland dish with an intriguingly "meaty", satisfying sensation!
The umami taste is due to glutamates; however, 5'-ribonucleotides such as guanosine monophosphate (GMP) and inosine monophosphate (IMP) greatly enhance the perceived intensity of umami.These ribonucleotides are also acids, so their salts are sometimes added to glutamates to work together in creating a flavour enhancement effect.