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Dec 29, 2008 08:54 AM

Asian sans MSG???

It just occurred to me that I might post this here, as I can't be the only one with this problem. I am severely severely allergic to MSG, but I absolutely adore Chinese, Thai, and other Asian food. Once I went into a restaurant and asked them not to add MSG to the food, which they didn't, but neglected to mention that oyster sauce is full of MSG and served me the dish anyways. I almost ended up in the hospital. Lately, a couple of Chinatown restaurants I've been to have informed me that all the meat is pre-cooked with MSG so my menu was limited to veggie and tofu dishes. I want to be able to eat Asian food again without interrogating waitstaff and/or missing out on the really tasty stuff.
Does anyone know of restaurants that explicitly do not have MSG in any of their food? I would be extremely appreciative...

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  1. I'm not allergic, per se, but I have a health condition that is severely exacerbated by MSG to the point where if I eat even modest quantities of it, I develop complications that could require hospitalization.

    That being said, I suspect that you'd be safe with the vast majority of Thai, as they don't add MSG to their food (provided, of course, that you avoid the oyster sauce). Regardless, depending on your level of sensitivity, you might have to avoid most Asian food altogether, as many of the flavours are glutamate based (e.g. soy sauce, fish sauce, etc). I am okay with the naturally occurring glutamates most of the time if I eat them in moderation; the artificial ones, however, send me over the edge into excruciating pain.

    You might also want to keep your eyes out for autolyzed yeast extracts and hydrolyzed proteins if you don't already, which are both very high in MSG and nearly as bad.

    Mengrai seemed to be okay for me when I was in Toronto (I assume you're talkng about Toronto). You really do have to be careful with Asian food above all, though. Avoid Japanese curries at all cost, for example.

    4 Replies
    1. re: vorpal

      Just to clarify. Does soy sauce, fish sauce, etc have naturally occuring glutamates or artificial?

      1. re: Apprentice

        As far as I know, soy sauce has natural glutamates, while fish sauce has artificial...

        1. re: HerMajestyPrincessBaklava

          Depends on the brand/quality of both. Look at the ingredients on the bottle. While I'm sure there are some that include added glutamates, the fermentation of soy beans or fish provides plenty of natural ones.

        2. re: Apprentice

          They both have natural. Some have artificial glutamates added, but I've found that generally only in the North American brands. The real Asian brands do not usually. Read the ingredient list; it's your friend.

      2. I believe Lee Garden (Chinatown) is MSG free, the one on Woodbine and Denison as wells. However, a lot of sauce is full of MSG beside oyster sauce.

        1. Thanks for the tips everyone...Its amazing how much nasty crap passes for edibles these days. Anyone else have resto suggestions, preferably downtown TO?

          1 Reply
          1. For sure, 'Spring Villa' on east side of Woodbine just north of Steeles does not use the stuff. Pretty decent Cantonese fare.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Charles Yu

              the dim sum chef at yang's came out and told a bunch of us that he uses no msg, thought you would like to know that too.

              1. re: aser

                It'd be nice to have dimsum sans MSG. Could you tell me where Yang's is, please?

            2. Try Real (?) Thai on the West side of Vaughan Rd. just at St. Clair, the bill board outside proudly proclaims " no colour additives & no MSG " . Maybe another Chowhound can tell you more...