'MSG' on Serious Eats

Grocery Ninja: Umami Arsenal

Chinese eateries are often accused of being heavy-handed with monosodium glutamate (MSG)—that cheap, nasty chemical that makes food taste good but leaves hapless diners grappling with the dreaded "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome." But, since not everyone in China has a headache, what do Chinese home cooks use to make their food delicious? More

MSG Is In More Food Than You'd Think

I bet you didn't know that MSG (monosodium glutamate) is in foods like "canned tuna..., canned soup, low-fat yogurts and ice creams, chips and virtually everything ranch-flavored or cheese-flavored." In fact, MSG is prevalent in many different foods and dishes around the world. In today's New York Times article "Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor", Julia Moskin explores how MSG is used and how its effects are still disputed.... More

MSG, China’s True Dash of Flavor

Fuchsia Dunlop, on China’s True Dash of Flavor: "Chinese chefs talk often of “xian wei” — their term for umami. They use many ingredients that are naturally rich in it — Yunnan ham, dried scallops and shiitake mushrooms — to enhance the flavors of their stocks and sauces (just as an Italian cook might use grated Parmigiano or truffles to enhance the umami taste of a dish of pasta). They talk of “ti xian wei” (“bringing out the umami”) in their cooking through the judicious application of salt, sugar, chicken fat and, nowadays, MSG. (...) There may be no need to add MSG to a delicate soup made from chicken, ham and dried scallops. But in some culinary contexts, it... More

MSG and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

Adam Kuban's recent curry rice feature prompted a few commenters to fret about MSG, a phenomenon that always reminds me of the essay from Jeffrey Steingarten's collection It Must've Been Something I Ate, in which he points out that a) the Chinese, who eat MSG every day, are not suffering from debilitating headaches en masse, and b) foods like Parmesan cheese and ketchup contain enough free glutamate to trigger headaches in people who say they're affected by MSG but no one ever complains about them. The Guardian's Alex Renton wrote a great article two years ago about the mythology of MSG that goes from the discovery of umami, to the mass production of MSG, to the 1968 article that triggered... More

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