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Jun 3, 2008 07:37 AM

MSG stereotypes


I saw a post on another board about MSG. The poster was looking for restaurant recommendations. He/she mentioned that one member of the family is allergic it MSG, so no Asian food. I didn't want to jack the thread to express my outrage so I am doing it here. I am offended by the suggestion that only Asian food has MSG.
I am I being too sensitive? or is it true. I know that prepared foods often contain MSG (chips, frozen entrees etc...), but what about restaurant food?

  1. The blanket statements that all Asian foods drip MSG tick me off also.
    Some Asian restaurants do use a lot of manufactured MSG, but most definitely not all of them. Quite a few non Asian restaurants also use manufactured MSG.
    Many Asian restaurants do serve foods that are naturally high in glutamates though.
    As do other restaurants that serve certain types of pickled dishes, mushrooms, some types of cheese, and a host of other food items that have naturally high levels of glutamates.
    Manufactured MSG is used in a lot of processed foods and seasoning mixes that are used by some types of non Asian restaurants.
    In other words - MSG is everywhere and is not limited to Asian restaurants.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hannaone

      Thank you! I still have a lot to learn. But I was almost certain, that avoiding Asian food was not going to make this person's life MSG free

    2. I have never understood the bad rap MSG gets in the public press.

      I use it all the time at home and consider it essential in many dishes, esp marinades. And this includes cuisines of all kinds, Asian or not.

      I also think MSG allergy is more myth than reality.

      14 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Especially since what most people describe as an allergy is not a true allergy (an immune system reaction), but a sensitivity.

        1. re: ipsedixit


          As one of those people who suffer from this "myth" let jfood state that it is a reality. He also suffers from allergies and they are totally different reactions.

          People who have a reaction to MSG, like jfood, become very dizzy, light-headed, have a horrible sensation in their mouths and feel like they are about to fall over. You can lie down for about 15 minutes until it passes. Overall, it's not a lot of fun.

          Jfood is "lucky" with his allergy as he only gets beet red and sometimes breaks out into an incredibly itchy rash, quite a site in a restaurant. If too bad the ever present Epi-pen comes into play. A much more serious and lengthy reaction.

          And yes, MSG can appear in Chinese food, but it does hold an exclusive patent. Heck look at the jars of gefilte fish and it's one of the main ingredients and numerous other cuisines add this to the food.

          So until you experience the reaction to MSG please do not downplay this as "since I don;t have it it does not exist."

          It does and although in jfood's case it is not life-threatening, it is not a very pleasant experience, and one that needs to be avoided.

          Hope this helps.

            1. re: E Eto

              Thanks E.

              Jfood used to do research for NIH so he has a fondness for them. But all the studies in the world would not change the fact that he has found a causal relationship between MSG and these reactions. Not a big deal and avoiding them has been pretty easy. And the downside ain't so bad.

              Thanks again.

            2. re: jfood

              Allergies, if they trigger prophylactics shock, can kill you. If MSG can do such a thing and since it is not a basic foodstuff, like many of the food allergy triggers, I would support a ban.

              If it makes you feel uncomfortable, avoid it. For those of us whose effect is merely an enhanced savory flavor, I'm uncertain why we should avoid it and I don't understand the bad press, which seems all out of proportion to its documented bad effects.

              1. re: EdwardAdams

                Hello everyone! Im a new member of chow! :D And im so happy to be here since i love to cook and i admit i do use a moderate amout of msg in my food to basically "wake up the flavors" i already added. All this accusations about msg is bs. Anything else in the food could have caused such a reaction. This is the first i have ever heard someone having an allergy to msg....almost makes me chuckle the things people come up with without solid proof. And if there was solid proof about that msg allergy, i must have missed it. Im from the caribbean, and most people there cook with msg (yes they do), so people need to stop pinning it on asian good, which i happen to like btw. And i even believe that a lot of caribbeans, asians, chinese and real southern people live long healthy lives, and most often longer than new yorkers. So tell me, why the big deal about msg? I have yet to comprehend this. Maybe its about time more people start cooking with msg...maybe it could even extend live spands...who knows? Im just adding my 2 cents.

                1. re: AfrocentricRN29

                  you are commenting on a thread that is 3 years old, and some of those who had the most to say are no longer on chowhound. if you check the boards you will find that a great many people are sensitive to msg, especially in 'heavy doses'. please be less condescending of people who do not share your views, or who's life experience is different than your own.

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    Afro will also find no shortage of fellow skeptics here.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      i have no problem with skepticism, but to totally dismiss things as "bs" and saying that there is no proof, that adding more msg could be a good thing, etc are not examples of engaging in a healthy discussion. If you want to say that numerous studies have shown no conclusive evidence, fine. If you want to talk about the wide use of MSG in numerous cultures, fine. Not sure what 'real' southern people means.

                    2. re: KaimukiMan

                      I was very much aware that this is a 3 yrar old thread (reading is fundamental), i jist felt like responding if thats ok with u.

                      I am also aware of skeptics, which i am not afraid of, cuz like others in this turead had theit opinions, i've got mine to.

                      I figured this thread was interesting so i responded... not to get people bent out of shape, but bcuz i use msg.

                      Also, if u read my post carefully, i said if there was proof, i must have missed it. I never stated there is no proof. Reading is fundamental:)

                      May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ Be with Our Spirits. Amen.

                  2. re: EdwardAdams

                    I believe the correct terminology is "anaphylactic shock". "Prophylactic shock" would describe the reaction that my very sheltered mother had when she came to visit me at University and saw a big bowl of condoms sitting on the front desk of the residence hall! (the physical reactions were not that dissimilar...)

                  3. re: jfood

                    jfood, the reactions you describe are almost exactly what happens to me,too, and it can be pretty scary. Luckily it hasn't happened to me for a long time, so I presumed restaurants no longer use it, and I eat at asian places quite frequently. I used to ask them to hold the MSG, but no longer bother.

                    To kick up my home cooking, I use a pinch of "Mushroom Essence", made from dried shitake and other umami enhancers, and does NOT contain MSG.

                    1. re: cassis

                      Which brand to you use? I have Po Lo Ku Mushroom Seasoning from Hsin Sui Industry Co made in Taiwan. Or are you talking about a whole different product? Appreciate your input.

                      1. re: torty

                        The one I use seems to come from Shanghai, it just says "mushroom essence" under chinese characters that I presume say mushroom essence, over a picture of a cute mushroom chef wielding a spoon. On the back it says it's healthy for "children, women and elders", and does not contain MSG, sugar, etc. I got it at the big asian supermarket here in Boston, Super 88. I add about 1/2t to the cornflour water thickening.

                2. Since umami is known as the fifth taste in some circles, I am amazed that there is so much prejudice against its direct enhancer. Why is it so much stronger than the prejudice against salt or sugar?


                  This seems a fair representation of the pros and cons. It certainly doesn't seem any better or worse than salt.

                    1. I have a Bengali cook, and she uses "tasty powder" in just about everything she makes. (I know Bangladesh is South Asia, but Bengali food is not what most people think of when talking about Asian food.)