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Fat Guy

Monosodium Glutamate/MSG: The Topic

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So, if MSG really brings out the flavor of foods,  why don't we cook with it? I have no interest in the MSG headache debate etc. I just want to know if it is used in any cusine other than Asian? It seems like it could really add "something" to certain foods...so how come we never use it? all of us have sechuan peppercorns in our cupboards, yet no msg. something I'm missing?

I tried using some in some tomato sauce the other day and noticed no discernable difference...hmm.

Actually it was quite popular in cafeteria / buffet food of all sorts for years. The problem is it simply fell out of favor. Too many people won't eat food with MSG, it's just now worth the hassle for most restaurants.


Never trust a skinny chef

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So, if MSG really brings out the flavor of foods,  why don't we cook with it?

I tried using some in some tomato sauce the other day and noticed no discernable difference...hmm.

I've experimented with it and use it in some dishes. If you're interested in reading about my conclusions, you can check out this Daily Gullet article (the first part is about citric acid; the second part gets to MSG).

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Actually, in many things you are using one of the sodium glutamates and may not know it. Sodium glutamate is just the sodium salt of the amino acid glutamine that is common in many foods. I believe that these amino acid salts are what is responsible for the umami flavor profile. Soy sauce is an example of a common seasoning that depends upon those salts for the flavor.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Actually, in many things you are using one of the sodium glutamates and may not know it. Sodium glutamate is just the sodium salt of the amino acid glutamine that is common in many foods. I believe that these amino acid salts are what is responsible for the umami flavor profile. Soy sauce is an example of a common seasoning that depends upon those salts for the flavor.

I was intrigued when I discovered that mushrooms and kombu were among the many foods rich in naturally-occuring glutamates. No wonder they turn up in so many recipes as flavor-enhancers.

It's not like I'm all that achtung in avoiding refined ingredients per se, but still I prefer my glutamates "packaged" in foodstuffs that bring a bunch of other nutritional/aesthetic values to a dish besides their glutamate content. In other words, given a choice between a plateful of sauteed mushrooms and a spoonful of MSG crystals, I know which one I'd rather chow down on. :biggrin:

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Isn't MSG the main ingredient in Accent flavor enhancer?

A funny story from long ago: When I was younger (maybe 8 or 9?), I so wanted to make a cake from scratch for my dad's birthday. To be sure, I have sampled my share of batter in the day but for some reason this time I didn't. Well, Did I learn my lesson that night! I had assumed the jar of white crystals was sugar...nope, it was MSG. I can still taste that nasty "flavor enhanced" cake in my mind. I never made any assumption about unlabeled ingredients in the kitchen after that!

N.


"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali

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MSG is a fascinating subject which I am presently researching. The more I learn about it, the more confused I am. I've spoken to doctors and nutritionists and even though some (not all) of them are against it, they say that there's no definitive, scientific proof that it's bad for you.

Anyway, one reason that you didn't find any discernable difference in adding it to your tomato sauce is that tomatoes have a high level of natural glutamates. It's also found in kombu (which is the ingredient that led to the development of artificial glutatmates) and such disparate foods as parmesan cheese, human breast milk, peas, fish and soy sauces, and meats.

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MSG is probably used more now than ever before. Check the ingredients list of any canned stews or soups, bouillon cubes, frozen dinners, gravy bases, cheeze doodles, flavoured potato chips, Dorito salty snacks like tortilla chips, corn chips, ad infinitum. For the longest time it was used in commercial baby foods. Like others have said, free glutamates are found in most of the foods that we eat and as a race, humans have a natural attraction to the umami taste.

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Isn't MSG a preservative? I get dehydrated when I eat food high in it.


"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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Isn't MSG a preservative?  I get dehydrated when I eat food high in it.

Could that be because of the sodium in it? Do you get dehydrated by high-salt foods as well?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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i think there a taboo in teh culinary world about using msg. it's a less sophisticated salt is what most will tell you. and the whole of north america is in a scare of the "harmful" effects it can have on your body. i'm not afraid of using it. but you should use is discerningly. fleur de sel, iodized, whatever has it place in certain foods.


bork bork bork

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The reason why people avoid MSG is because of the so-called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" -- when people started claiming that they were getting headaches from eating there, in the 60s and 70s. Undoubtedly, there are those with genuine allergies, but I figure some of the reactions were just people becoming lethargic from overeating. So you got mass hysteria backlash against it, and restaurants going MSG-free to placate them...

There are foods advertised as MSG-free today, that contains additives that are closely related to MSG, and have similar properties, but since there never was any similar backlash and media coverage against those additives, there was never any similar taboos them.

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MSG is probably used more now than ever before. Check the ingredients list of any canned stews or soups, bouillon cubes, frozen dinners, gravy bases, cheeze doodles, flavoured potato chips, Dorito salty snacks like tortilla chips, corn chips, ad infinitum. For the longest time it was used in commercial baby foods. Like others have said, free glutamates are found  in most  of the foods that we eat and as a race, humans have a natural attraction to the umami taste.

I understand that msg is added to alot of packaged products, but lets consider fresh food and cooking...what can it be added to in our daily applications in which it will enhance the flavor? if umami is approximatly described as "mouthfullness" what does msg add this quality to?

The reason why people avoid MSG is because of the so-called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" -- when people started claiming that they were getting headaches from eating there, in the 60s and 70s. Undoubtedly, there are those with genuine allergies, but I figure some of the reactions were just people becoming lethargic from overeating. So you got mass hysteria backlash against it, and restaurants going MSG-free to placate them...

There are foods advertised as MSG-free today, that contains additives that are closely related to MSG, and have similar properties, but since there never was any similar backlash and media coverage against those additives, there was never any similar taboos them.

I think that chinese restaurant syndrome is a bunch of rascist malarky. This is not what I really want to discuss though (perhaps for another thread) I want to know about cooking with msg and it's culinary possibilitys, not it's social distinctions.


does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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I ALWAYS add MSG and Gelatin to my stocks and it really makes a world of difference. I don't bother much with this "all natural" stuff, Sure, I could boil veals feet and parmesan rinds in my stock, but the artificial versions work almost as well for far less effort.

I find that with MSG in stock, it manages to work itself into nearly every dish that calls for it. The exceptions are generally sauced with soy anyway. The key is subtlety, a very small amount goes a long way. Usually, I use about a heaped teaspoon for every 20L or so of stock.


PS: I am a guy.

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Isn't MSG the main ingredient in Accent flavor enhancer?

It's the only ingredient. We use it in one dish we make - a chinese-style ginger and scallion sauce that actually makes anything taste good, but goes especially well with milder fishes and chicken. It just doesn't taste right without the MSG.


I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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No one has yet mentioned Jeffrey Steingarten's essay on the so-called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, umami and MSG. Called "Why doesn't everybody in China have a headache?", it's included in his second anthology, _It Must Have Been Something I Ate_. I haven't read it in some time, but in it he basically debunks the "discovery" of CRS and talks about why foods like Parmesan cheese and tomato paste taste so delicious (it's the wealth of free glutamate, which is naturally-occurring MSG).

I believe he also refers to "MSG crybabies"!

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Msg adds the "meatiness" of taste or, "umami" to a savoury dish. Soups, stocks, stirfries can benefit from 1/8th tsp. per serving. The secret is to enhance rather than replace the rich meaty flavours.

Like almost everything else, it's a slippery slope. If you use it constantly and indiscriminantly, your family's taste will be "spoiled" because they will expect that kind of over the top richness in everything. People who use msg injudiciously are who I would call "shortcut cooks". Nothing will replace the good old stock pot bubbling on the back burner. MODERATION please.

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Does MSG encourage water retention like salt?


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Luckylies-

Try a little MSG on Korean style sauteed potatoes. You'll notice what MSG can add to a dish immediatley with this little experiment.

Julienne potatoes and saute in peanut or canola oil over low heat. The potatoes should not brown at all. Add MSG to half the batch. Taste the difference.

My mom didn't use MSG in her cooking, so I just follow her habits in this sense. But it can really be added to almost anything soups, stews, stocks, pickles, sauteed vegetables...

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Isn't MSG the main ingredient in Accent flavor enhancer?

I was going to mention this, as well. I've bought a number of "community" recipe collections over the years and was surprised to find, in more than one of them, a lot of the recipes called for the use of "Accent" seasoning.

Though our generation may not cook with it anymore, our parents certainly did.


 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Does MSG encourage water retention like salt?

It could since it is a sodium salt. But if you are using enough to make any difference at all, given the other sources of sodium in a dish, you are using way too much.

I think that vegetables get the biggest kick from MSG. I have been known to add a little shake from the Accent container into the peas or carrots.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I guess folks are only afflicted by the "Chinese restaurant syndrome" when they know they are eating MSG from an Asian source. This article. from Chemical and Engineering news.

I just googled "Accent Seasoning" and found alot of non-Asian recipes calling for the stuff.

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Ciao,

Here in Parma you should see the way the true Parmigiani eat this cheese.

The typical plate here, tortelli or ravioli with a ricotta and herb filling is plated dry, or with s splash of grated parm. on the bottom of the plate, then melted butter (amazing quality counts) over the raviolis, then a heaping fistful of grated parm. over the plate.

I am talking about one large fistful of cheese for 10 ravioli, one order. How about that as satisfying your MSG craving!! I read Steingartens writings a few years (maybe 1) ago and with the story on MSG, I was even more convinvced that parm. is a very addicting source too!

Luckily it a tiny bit more expensive for the good stuff in the states then here.

Ore

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Y'know, I have mixed feelings about the whole "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" flap. I can buy that a lot of it was overblown, and that at least some of it was motivated by fear of "exotic" foods ...

But still ... when I was a kid, my folks took us out for dinner fairly frequently, and I swear it was only after dinners at the local Chinese restaurant that my brother and I both fell sound asleep in the back seat of the car on the way home. After dinners at other places, yeah we'd be full, and a *little* lethargic because of that, but still had more than enough energy to be obnoxious to each other, as siblings in the back seat will do ("Mom! He's hitting me!" :biggrin: ). Under normal circumstances, my brother and I would *never* curl up next to each other peacefully, as we always did when being driven home from the China Pearl. It was such a remarkable departure from our usual behavior, I used to wonder about it even as a kid--why did Chinese food make me so sleepy?

It wasn't until years afterward that I started hearing the rumors about MSG's alleged side-effects. Plus, hell, I was six or seven years old at the time this was happening--while I may have been inquisitive enough to go "hmmmm...", what the heck did I know or care about additives in food back then? So I think in my case I can eliminate the possibility of some "placebo effect" with regard to these dinners that put me to sleep.

To be sure, there could be any number of other explanations for this phenomenon--for all I know, the chef of that little Chinese restaurant may have just had a heavy hand with the naturally-occuring glutamates (soy etc.). But ... there it is, for whatever it's worth, an admittedly highly annecdotal data point for your consideration.

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This may be one of those rare cases where a food additive will regain its good name.

I don't know if there is such a thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome or not, but if it does, it seems unlikely that MSG causes it. There have been at least two placebo-controlled trials of MSG, one in healthy individuals (Tarasoff and Kelly, 1993) and one in a group of people who self-report a history of CRS (Kenney, 1985). Even though the trials used more MSG than you'd get from food, there was no significant difference in reaction rates to the placebo versus the MSG. In Tarasof and Kelly (1993), the doses were up to 3.15 grams per person.

Kenney, 1985. The Chinese restaurant syndrome: an anecdote revisited. Food and Chemical Toxicology 24, 351-354.

Tarasof and Kelly, 1993. Monosodium L-glutamate: a double-blind study and review. Food and Chemical Toxicology 31, 1019-1035.


"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I think I have read somewhere that tryptophan can cause the drowsies that mizducky remembers. I know that the after-Thanksgiving dinner naps after eating a lot of turkey is blamed on turkey being high in tryptophan. Perhaps some of the ingredients in typical Chinese dishes are particularly high in tryptophan.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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