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Monosodium Glutamate/MSG: The Topic


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I like it.

I'm in favor of it.

I think "MSG Syndrome" is a load of crap.

Anybody else?

I will admit to using it occassionally!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I LOVE MSG!

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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When I was a little girl and MSG was in much wider use in Chinese restaurants, I always associated a particular, peculiar tingling in my face with "Chinese food." It certainly didn't stop me from loving Chinese food, but I never had the sensation with any other cuisine. I haven't had the sensation in many years. Restaurants now state on the menu that they do not use MSG. While I do not discount the placebo effect of the announcement, years ago, I used to feel the tingling unprompted by any knowlege of what might or might not be in the food. I think certain people are, indeed, sensitve to MSG.

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I occasionally get 'Chinese restaurant syndrome'. I never ever had it until I came back from half a year in Hongkong, so I assume it's an allergy that was tripped by overexposure to something there (my personal theory is that it happened in a duck restaurant in Beijing). It's a weird sensation, like feeling very embarrassed and having an iron band tightened around your head at the same time. It's never been bad enough to reduce my consumption of Chinese food. Also, I'd say I get it about 1 in 25 Chinese meals, or less.

Anyway, many of the restaurants I go to regularly use MSG, and I get it so rarely I can't help thinking it's an allergy to something else. (I was under the impression that years ago someone did a study which concluded that MSG wasn't the cause of this syndrome anyway.)

I've never noticed getting it outside of a Chinese restaurant.

Edited by Kikujiro (log)
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This strikes me as a reasonably balanced review of the research:

MSG sensitivity, also known as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, is a set of symptoms that may occur in some people after they consume monosodium glutamate (MSG). The syndrome was first described in 1968 as a triad of symptoms: “numbness at the back of the neck radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness and palpitations.” Although some Chinese (and other) restaurants now avoid the use of MSG, many still use significant amounts.

MSG is used worldwide as a flavor enhancer. The average person living in an industrialized country consumes about 0.3 to 1.0 gram of MSG per day. MSG is classified by the Food and Drug Administration as “generally recognized as safe.” Indeed, many researchers have questioned the very existence of a true MSG-sensitivity reaction. Most clinical trials, including some double-blind trials, have failed to find any symptoms arising from consumption of MSG, even large amounts, when taken with food. However, clinical trials have found that MSG taken without food may cause symptoms, though rarely the classic “triad” described above. A large trial and a review of studies on MSG both suggested that large amounts of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in people who believe they react adversely to MSG. However, persistent and serious effects from MSG consumption have not been consistently demonstrated.

More details at:

http://www.gnc.com/health_notes/Concern/MS...Sensitivity.htm

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The love affair with MSG, by some of the postings here. I wonder if these people would of felt the same thing, & posted at eGullet, before Ed Shchoenfeld responded to my question about MSG, in the recent Q & A session(where he praised its use in moderation). Or at least felt this way, but would not mention it publicly. I was surprised by Ed's answer(learn something new daily at eGullet).

----------------

Steve

Edited by SteveW (log)
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I use MSG in my cooking and I can assure you that 98% of professional kitchens use it as well.

In certain Chinese dishes one can get excellent results without it. I'm thinking of highly flavored dishes that contain seasonings like salt, soy, sugar, garlic, ginger, scallion, bean pastes, chiles etc. In some of the more lightly flavored dishes, especially vegetable items, it produces a result that is difficult to achieve any other way.

I regard it as a classical part of most of the flavoring sauces that I use. When I choose to omit it, I always think about how I am going to replace it by using a touch more soy or salt or a different kind of accent (no pun intended).

It is interesting to know that MSG occurs naturally in seaweed, and according to Japanese food experts, was discovered by scientists trying to isolate the flavoring agents found in kombu (seaweed) based dashi (stock).

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By the way I do believe that certain individuals have a reaction to MSG. For instance, from my experience, when I consume a lot of MSG quickly, perhaps by eating a bowl of soup, my nose starts to run and gets a little stuffed. I still like it and cook with it.

It takes me a year to go through a small $1.50 bag of the stuff. I prefer to buy Japanese Ajinomoto brand MSG

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I beleive I get the symptoms at times--or at least two out of the three. I find I am most likely to notice a certain tingling and lethargy after having large portions of soup at some restaurants. I've rarely noticed it when I don't have large portions of soup. It may or may not be a reaction to MSG. I just assume soup has more MSG than is found in other dishes. My wife has a much stronger reaction to MSG, or perhaps the same reaction makes her less comfortable, but she's less likely to order a bowl of soup and noodles for lunch because of it. It's not an entirely unpleasant reaction unless one needs to move about and thing clearly immediately upon leaving the restaurant.

My understanding is that it has no taste, but somehow enhances the flavor of other ingredients. It undoubtedly serves a culinary function if not a nutritional one. Few of us eat pure for the nutritional value of the meal. Few of us are likely to judge the value of a meal soley on the nutrition supplied. It would seem to me that if it makes your food taste better, you'd want to use it as both a cook and diner and that if it made you uncomfortable, you wouldn't want to use it. For those of whom it may do both, I guess there's a trade off and decision to be made. For me, I hope very little is used, but if it tasted good enough, I go back to the same restaurant even if they use it.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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According to this Washington Post article (previously posted by Jinmyo) MSG does have a flavor of its own: umami.

This would seem to imply that if one ate some pure MSG or other glutamate, one could perceive a particular taste that would be distinguishable from other powders even with one's eye's closed.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I LOVE MSG!

And I love you for being honest. :biggrin:

MSG is used in more than just Chinese professional kitchens.

What we do not know often does not bother us.

I react to MSG and do so every time I eat Chinese food. It is a rare occasion where I am not home sick after a Chinese meal. And I am not a soup drinker. Since I was a child I have had this problem. An aunt would use MSG to make her Indian cooking take new depths... and the food tasted great, but I would come home sick.

Now, as an adult, I have realized the choice is mine... and if I am going to eat foods with MSG, I enjoy them in my consumption and deal with MSG related symptoms after. No one forces me to eat them. I enjoy them and am willing to make that compromise. It gives me great joy to enjoy Chinese food. In fact I can eat it more than most any other cuisine.

And I know it is added to more than just soup in Chinese kitchens. And it also finds its way into foods in other kitchens. And the great thing is that a little MSG can make that little difference that can elevate good cooking to great cooking.

PS: In India one can only find Japanese Ajinomoto.

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I'm surprised no one as brought up the fact that many cuisines besides Chinese or Japanese find a way of adding free glutamate to their food to enhance flavors. A nice aged grating cheese from Italy? My favorite food chemist says it has at least 1% free glutamate (and the rest is nearly all fat!). Seaweed? Fish sauce? Soya sauce? Bonito? Aged meats? All have significant amounts of free glutamate. Partially hydrolyzed vegetable protein (you see this in almost every processed food ingredient list)? Plenty of free glutamate in solution!

Our love of free glutamate has a biological basis. As we find out which receptors are responsible for transmitting the signal of "taste" to our brain we know more and more about the actual biology of taste. Heterologus receptors, depending on their makeup, specifically recognize a single distinctive taste, like sweet or umami. We have receptors that can "taste" the amount of glutamate in what we're eating and most people's brains think free glutamate in food is a bonus, something to look out for in a positive way. I like to speculate on why we like to eat things with a discernable amount of glutamate in them, maybe because glutamate is the key excitatory neurotransmitter in our brain and our bodies just can't get enough...but now I really digress.

regards,

trillium

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Years ago I took cooking classes at the China Institute with Florence Lin. She used to insist that a pinch of msg was de rigeur in most Chinese dishes. But, at that time, fresh Chinese ingredients were very difficult to find. Although I have no strong feelings against it I just don't feel the need for a pinch of msg iin a stir fry of fresh bamboo shoots, fresh water chestnuts, fresh shiitake from China etc. etc. I do freely admit to using ample quantities of soy, fish sauce, oyster sauce, seaweed and other ingredients that contain msg so perhaps I'm hooked after all.

Ruth Friedman

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Trillum - Are you saying that the Italians add MSG or other glutamate(s) to Parmesan cheese, or that it occurs or forms naturally?

Can we actually taste glutamates? For years it's been advertised as a flavor enhancer with the implication it had no taste of it's own, but that in some mysterious way it made other flavors stand out. Monosodiumglutamate is the one that's sold for cooiking. How does it differ from others as it seems there are others. Have scientists studied differences between glutamates that are added and those that occur naturally in the cooking or preparation of a product?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I said it during Ed's Q&A and will say it again, MANY restaurants and chefs (non Chinese or even Japanese) are using MSG and certainly without the diner realizing it. Home chefs have used it for many different cuisines and to great success and without anyone knowing. They are added to more things than we know. :shock: But all true... very true.

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No, I do not think you will find any mention of msg in books by Barbara Tropp, Eileen Yin Fei-Lo or Ken Hom but that does not mean that many of these chefs do not sneak in a pinch when they cook for themselves

Ruth Friedman

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By the way I do believe that certain individuals have a reaction to MSG. For instance, from my experience, when I consume a lot of MSG quickly, perhaps by eating a bowl of soup, my nose starts to run and gets a little stuffed. I still like it and cook with it.

I'm with you EatingwithEddie.

I love the taste of my foods with it. But, my ankles have been known to puff up quite pronouncedly directly afterwards.

I still wouldn't think of not eating my favorite dishes, or cooking without it. :cool:

I wonder if that is why my Japanese rice seasoning - which has big seaweed flakes in it - make my plain rice taste so wonderful??

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FG - MSG must have been in the air this morning. I made a dump run, then delivered some engine mounts for a new lobster boat that's being built, and on the way home MAGI sauce popped into my head as I was thinking about supper. Haven't had any in the house for years.

Went out looking this afternoon, going from store to store in town to town. No MAGI sauce. :sad:

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This would seem to imply that if one ate some pure MSG or other glutamate, one could perceive a particular taste that would be distinguishable from other powders even with one's eye's closed.

I think I could pass that test. I've recently attuned my palate to MSG. I've immersed myself in a wash of different fish sauces, and seaweed seasonings. :biggrin:

I've always perceived it as a "piggyback effect" to salt - the salt flavors of a dish are more lingering, richer and deeper. Hence the nicknames / accent/enhancer of MSG.

Has anyone seen any studies regarding MSG and its effect on blood pressure? Would it be to good to be true that it doesn't share Salts bad side? :shock:

Edited by Kerouac1964 (log)
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Has anyone seen any studies regarding MSG and its effect on blood pressure?  Would it be to good to be true that it doesn't share Salts bad side?  :shock:

I have not seen studies. But my father has history of blood pressure and I remember that was one BIG reason for our home having no MSG. It is not considered good for those that are hypertensive. I have been told it is worse than table salt.

It would be great if an intelligent source could tell us if this is just an urban legend or what.

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This would seem to imply that if one ate some pure MSG or other glutamate, one could perceive a particular taste that would be distinguishable from other powders even with one's eye's closed.

If you put salt and MSG side by side I could tell the difference in a moment by tasting them. I believe that MSG definitely has a taste and I'm comfortable with using the Japanese word umami as a word that denotes this flavor. I think having a word like this is a very sensible idea.

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