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Nov 14, 2008 09:51 PM

MSG [Split from LA board]

(Note: This post was split from the LA board at: -- The Chowhound Team).

Personally, I don't react strongly to MSG. Nothing that a large bottle of Perrier won't take care of. If I can avoid it I do but I must say that I really enjoyed my three trips to Gardena Ramen after reading about it on rameniac's blog. Good ramen from a caring chef and sweet server!

Gardena Ramen (CLOSED
)1840 W 182nd St, Torrance, CA 90504

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  1. my take on MSG is that it is basically a non-issue. sure, there might be some real (or imagined) thirst after a bowl of ramen (or pho, or any meal really) in which some might say that MSG is the culprit. but for me it's just another ingredient in the food, one that was initially developed by isolating a (naturally occurring btw) amino acid from kelp (which is used in a thousand different brothy japanese dishes anyway).

    these days, i would never presume to say that one chef or another uses MSG unless he or she actually confirmed it. from golden deli to gardena ramen, you can be a foodie with a finely-tuned palate all you want, but we live in a climate where those three letters together can still stigmatize a restaurant and ruin an honest business the way the scarlet letter ruined hester prynne. sorry if this sounds like a rant - responsible food discourse is something i've become more sensitve to lately because through all our chowing, there really are livelihoods at stake.

    btw, if you believe the article i've linked to below, the MSG scare was initially fear-mongering spread by a cantonese guy who was hating on northern chinese cooking (yea, and you wonder why cantonese people refer to non-cantonese chinese food essentially as 'food from outside the province!') thirty years later, the myth has spread and we are where we are today, in a climate of urban legends and fear-mongering that has nothing to do with the outgoing adminstration in washington.

    added aji-no-moto or not, i've come to expect good ramen to have that little extra umami kick - in fact, it's the umami that really takes a bowl to that next level. there's a lot of talk on these boards about msg/non-msg-laden food; to me it's like debating whether a certain restaurant uses pepper or paprika, essentially a moot point outside of one's own personal allergies.

    but hey, if you get headaches you get headaches. and i'm fortunate in that my headaches usually come from getting rip roaring drunk, after which a bowl of MSG-infused ramen around 4am is better than a bottle of tylenol. if that just means i have to drink some water twenty minutes later so be it. we're supposed to consume 8 glasses a day anyway! hmm... i wonder what aquafina would taste like if threw some aji-no-moto in there... ... * runs to the kitchen... *

    9 Replies
    1. re: rameniac

      Hi rameniac,

      Count yourself in the lucky group. :) Again, I'm jealous you're in the group that isn't affected by it. I sincerely hope you're not implying that I'm imagining my reaction to MSG.

      Like you, I definitely don't like saying negative things about a restaurant if it's not warranted (and even if it is, I hesitate). It's someone's livelihood, but I don't want to cover up anything either. I know Gardena Ramen is one of your favorite places, and I regret not being able to enjoy it as much as you do. I spoke w/ Nakamura-san directly, and he admitted to me that he uses MSG for his Ramen.

      (Similarly, when I ate at Aji Man and felt its effects, Sasaki-san and I spoke at length about his Ramen creating process and he admitted to me he used MSG as well.)

      1. re: exilekiss

        i agree with both of u actually.

        Some people really do have a reaction to MSG...ive taken people to restaurants (that i know use MSG) and they've had headaches etc, but they never knew there was MSG until I told them (so its not like it was in their heads). On the other hand I've had people go to restaurants and freak out after they found out there was MSG in the food even though they had no reaction whatsoever, but they've been trained mentally over the years to associate MSG with being unhealthy or bad.

        I personally, dont have any reaction to it although too much gives u that really thirsty feeling, so it doesnt really bother me. That said it should never be used as a substitute for good cooking rather i think it should be used to enhance the flavors (if they deem that it helps the food). So Exilekiss, I agree with your posting about Pho Minh, in that there are a lot of places that cut corners and try to make up for it by throwing a bunch of MSG in the food, which i find inexcusable if you're trying to offer a top notch product (clearly some are not)

        Btw, it is pretty common in China. Funny story, I went to a huo guo (hot pot) place in chengdu, sichuan and they literally gave you a small bowl on the side filled with MSG, i didnt know what it was and i was like what is this and they responded MSG (i was sort of surprised haha as its normally sort of hidden from public view)...although it was by far the best huo guo place ive ever been to.

        1. re: exilekiss

          Exilekiss, thanks for all your ramen adventures lately.Wow, you ramen guys are serious folk.

          MSG, might be the healthiest thing in my diet after this weekends debauchery.I too am impervious to such things and could care less, but it's nice that you include this info. in your reports.

          As far as criticism, I say let the fur fly.Most restaurants will live and die based on their regulars, not us posters,but definitely some reviews generate high interest and actual visits to that restaurant.How many?Who knows, but you are doing lots of good, so keep being honest and tell us the good and bad, and we'll decide. Me, after your excellent review I might just go to Shisen Ramen some time and ask for a shaker of MSG on the side.But, I live in the NOHO, so they will have to make it on their local clientele.

          1. re: streetgourmetla

            Hi streetgourmetla,

            Thanks. :) If you want just purity of soup (from hours of long-cooking (no shortcuts)), give Foo Foo Tei (Hacienda Heights)'s Shio Ramen and Shin Mama's Tokyo Shinasoba a try.

            1. re: exilekiss

              I want both, and you better believe I will be going to Foo Foo Tei for Shio and the pork belly.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Don't forget about their gyoza, curry, chilean seabass, stuffed soft shell crab, saba, ika maruyaki, ebi fry, kokudama....oh the list goes on and on and on....

          2. re: exilekiss

            naw exile, i don't mean to presume anything. you know your taste buds and allergies better than i or anyone else ever could. if MSG causes an adverse reaction with you, then it does what it does, and that's a shame for sure!

            but, i do think that the general public's perception of MSG is kind of unwarranted, especially considering the history of how it came about as an ingredient and how the "fear" of it all started. i find it absurd and sad that restaurants need to have "no MSG" notices on their walls or menus -obviously pandering to the American mainstream - when there may be a thousand more unhealthy or artifical chemicals and preservatives in the food. indeed, if we were in asia, MSG would be a non-issue, and i think it's as much a fear of the "other" as anything that keeps the stigma going strong.

            which also kind of brings me to lau's point. considering the preservatives, pesticides, and artificial residue you might find in a single supermarket produce aisle - stuff that often finds its way into the food no matter what - it's true that MSG definitely shouldn't be a "substitute for good cooking," but i don't really think of it as a shortcut any more than say, using salt or pepper. i'd say it's just another tool/ingredient at the chef's disposal.

            then again, i don't cook for beans, so i have no idea if cooking one way or another would necessarily unleash the umami the same way a dash of the good ole' accent can!

          3. re: rameniac

            I don't get all the hype around Madison Square Garden either. I mean, it's just a building. Oh wait...wrong MSG.

            I don't mind MSG too much but understand that people can react to it differently. Btw, ajinomoto water is nothing new--it's called Aquarius...haha.

            1. re: Keizo

              aquarius reminds me of brawndo. "it's got electrolytes - what plants crave!"

              CH moderator: this post has been moved to the 'fictional food products' message board =P.

          4. I have a definite reaction to MSG, but not the usual one. I get very phlegmish, so for about 20 minutes after eating it I'm frequently clearing my throat. That sounds worse than it is, I can be unobtrusive about it and it's not sufficiently unpleasant or long-lasting as to make me avoid foods that have it. But it is absolutely predictable.