MSG in VChinatown - what to do? [moved topic from Manhattan board]
Since I'm not sensitive to MSG at all, I may be the wrong person to talk about this. But sometimes I think people imagine their sensitivity to the stuff. If you eat jams or jellies (MSG is in the pectin), soy sauce, tofu, yeast, malt, etc., etc., you're consuming MSG. Yet people rarely complain of any sensitivity to these foods.
Anyway, that's my take. I could be wrong.
[I originally posted this in the LA Board in response to a similar question].
In most places I've gone to, it isn't a problem to withhold MSG. However, I always ask in Chinese.
There are three main ways for MSG to end up in your foods:
1. It is added during the cooking process. This is very easy to avoid. The cook will most likely add a bit more salt, though.
2. It is added when preparing large batches of food for later use. This includes items such as egg rolls, anything marinated, soups, and broths that are used as a basis for gravies or sauces. Some of these, such as egg rolls, are easy to avoid. Others, such as sauces, are difficult to avoid.
3. It is present in canned goods or some sauces (not usually soy sauce). If a restaurant uses these, it is difficult to avoid.
When ordering, choose dishes with fresh ingredients and minimal sauce. The dishes should be made to order, not mass-produced (again, egg rolls are an example). Avoid soups.
The Cantonese pronunciation for MSG is: May Jing.
Pronounce "May" as in the month of May. Pronounce "Jing" the same way you sing "Jingle Bells."
The Mandarin pronunciation for MSG is wei jing. (fourth and first tones respectively). Wei is pronounced "Way" except you should say it with a dropping tone, such as when you say the second word in the phrase, "Oh, sh*t!" [This was the way my Mandarin teacher explained it to our class] Pronounce "Jing" the same was as Cantonese.
Just tell them: "No May Jing" or "No Wei Jing".
And another misconception is that only chinese restaurants use MSG, however, most fast foods and processed items contain loads of MSG... KFC uses a lot, all bouillon cubes and canned broths (unless otherwise stated), and another huge number of regular restaurant chains. I personally subscribe to the notion that MSG sensitivity is very rare and most people are influenced by the hype on it - i am not negating that some people do indeed have adverse reactions, just that i am sure it is less prominent than people think. Wikipedia's entry on MSG is very informative and offers background on studies conducted by food governing agencies around the globe and all have found it safe for consumption. Can 2 billion chinese and generations upon generations be doing something wrong?