≡ Menu

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is wei jing (味精)


MSG is a big thing in China and Chinese cuisine.

Many soup recipes call for chicken stock in cubes or granules but my Mum (during her younger days) would discourage me from using it because she says that it’s loaded with MSG and salt.

Thus, nobody in my family cooks using Monosodium glutamate (MSG) in their cooking. My grandmothers, aunties and mother only used table salt, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sesame seed oil and oyster sauce.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a flavor enhancer

The use of MSG as a seasoning or “flavor enhancer” is quite controversial because:

a) MSG was blamed the culprit for “headaches, dizzyness and chest pains” (called the “Chinese restaurant syndrome” ) (read here).

b) “Ajinomoto MSG” or “Accent” (in US) is so popular and seems synonymous with Japanese soups (NOT true because good Japanese cooking does not use Ajinomoto. They use miso paste like the Hikari Organic Miso Paste, White, 17.6 oz

Kaneso Tokuyou Hanakatsuo , Dried Bonito Flakes 3.52 Oz, which a type of fish is also used to flavor broths and soups.

c) This Wikipedia article states that not enough studies are available to prove a link between the consumption of MSG and chronic health problems e.g. cancer but many countries require the inclusion of MSG in their list of ingredients. Note that “natural flavor” can also mean MSG.

Glutamate in Foods

“An important consideration for those wishing to follow a low glutamate diet is that glutamate is found in many foods naturally and not just as an additive.

High levels of natural glutamate are found in foods that have been matured, cured or preserved for some time, allowing the proteins to break down to release the glutamate amino acid. The highest concentrations are found in long, matured cheeses, such as Parmesan and Roquefort.

Other foods to consider include cured meats, fish sauce condiments and soy sauce.

Glutamate is also found in significant quantities in other foods that are not matured in any way. These include mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, broccoli, walnuts and peas.

Food products containing these ingredients have a significant quantity of natural glutamate in them and must be avoided if a low glutamate diet is to be followed” (Source: Livestrong.com).

Please read Battling the MSG Myth who writes about suffering from puzzling chronic conditions such as headaches, stomach disorders, fatigue, depression, ADD, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep disorders, racing heart.

“You may think that you are actually avoiding MSG if you avoid Chinese restaurants, but this factory created flavor enhancer is in almost every bottled, bagged, frozen, or canned processed food on super market shelves. But since MSG is often a component of a formulation, it is not labeled as such. You’ve seen words like autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, calcium caseinate, and whey protein. Each of these substances contain a percentage of processed glutamate, the harmful component of MSG.”

Author, Debby Anglesey, has researched and written a book that addresses the connection of glutamate (MSG) to the dramatic rise in health problems such as ADD, headaches, depression, obesity, stomach problems, and neurological disorders. Describing her own past health condition as being “one foot in the grave”, she shares her remarkable journey from despair to reclaimed health. When her 19 year old son’s health suddenly spiraled downward, Debby went into first gear and discovered the hidden culprit lurking in the majority of the items we eat today from snack foods to vitamins.

MSG at the supermarket

At Carrefour and Walmart, we found a seasonings corner and half an aisle dedicated to MSG:

Check out the bags and packs of MSG…

(Pardon the blur pic but it was a quick snap!)

Chicken stock cubes are called jī jing (鸡精) (e.g. Knorr) is located under another section:

A popular brand I see advertised on TV is 太太乐 (tài tai lè) or “Happy Wife”? You can see the green brand logo in the photo above.

Monosodium glutamate in restaurants

MSG consumption has been traditionally linked to the RACIST term “Chinese restaurant syndrome” (now called “MSG symptom complex”).

According to research, MSG sensitivity is present among certain sensitive subjects who, almost always, also present clinical symptoms upon consumption of other food substances, such as amines, salicylates and preservatives. 

The most common clinical symptoms associated with the syndrome are
recurrent urticaria (hives) / angioedema (swelling), migraine and irritable bowel syndrome.

We tend to avoid Chinese restaurants where we feel “extra thirsty” afterwards despite having soup feature as a main dish. The soup is the suspect.

I used to frequent this delicious beef noodle soup outlet until I saw him put a heaping Chinese soup spoonful of MSG into this bowl:

Knocked my socks off!

The next time I ordered it, I asked for MSG to be omitted – he stared at me as if I was an alien from outer space 😀

Sadly, the beef noodle soup didn’t taste quite as good, which meant that he relied on MSG to bring out the flavor of the beef soup. Strike, you’re out!

Thus, I’ve always boiled fresh stock or overnight ones although I’ve found recipes you can freeze soup stock. Our current fridge doesn’t have enough space so that’s out of the question…

I find it fascinating at how ingrained the use of MSG is in Chinese culture that my current maid felt quite frustrated when she had to cook without either one!

My previous part-time helper had no problems preparing MSG-free food because she’d worked for a foreign family before and she completely understood our “abnormal” cooking styles 😀

I remember how horror-struck my current helper was when my previous maid showed her the condiments around our kitchen and told her there was NO MSG or chicken powder. She couldn’t believe her eyes LOL

Me? I’ve never used MSG and I don’t think I’ll start. Less is more, right?

Young Living Vitality Essential Oils

If you followed my Real Food Challenge, you’ll see that I have replaced artificial flavorings with natural flavorings like lemon juice, sea salt and the like.

Did you know that essential oils also make fantastic marinades?

If are no stranger to edible flowers, fruit and flower teas, then you’ll appreciate adding the flavours of essential oils like ginger, lemon, tangerine or even lavender to your cooking!

If you’d like to try out Young Living Vitality essential oils, just click here (my personal online store) to place an order. Select the country you are from and then you can shop for what you want 🙂

*** Please note that you will purchase at retail price and I earn a sales commission, like a sales assistant at a health food store ^_^.

You can also choose to purchase a Starter Kit (with wholesale member pricing of 24% off your future orders).

Click here to go to the Young Living online store. Do email me, if you have any questions! Have a nice day 🙂

Next post:

Previous post: