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MSG-free Chinese restaurants in Chinatown

nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 01:51 PM

I would think that finding an MSG-free Chinese restaurant in Chinatown is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but I hope I'm wrong. Does anyone know of a Chinatown restaurant that doesn't use it, especially in their soups?

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  1. n
    nycguy20011 RE: nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 07:37 PM

    I just read somewhere that Noodle Village is MSG-free. Not sure if that's 100% true or not.

    1. f
      fourunder RE: nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 07:39 PM

      All Chinese restaurants can be MSG free....if they are not already. Simply request no MSG...even for soups

      1. n
        nycguy20011 RE: nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 08:05 PM

        I've been to many Chinese restaurants where they couldn't make the dishes MSG-free because it was already in the sauce/broth that's made way ahead of time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nycguy20011
          fourunder RE: nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 08:21 PM

          Listen, if your going into some cheap/inexpensive place like NY Noodletown or East Corner Wonton, who both are very very busy...they may not honor your request...but by nature of the way EVERY Chinese Kitchen is set up, there is a large vat of Chicken Stock in the middle of a Wok line stove. This vat of stock does not have anything other than Chicken scraps in in.....no salt and certainly no MSG. They do not make soup from this vat for individual orders, but do for sauces. They will make a batch of Wonton Broth as need...which is when they would add seasonings. Entree dishes do not use Wonton broth to make dishes or sauces..

          btw...sauces are not made for the simple reason .....all sauces are finished with a corn starch slurry, also on the center of the Wok line.....sauces need to be finished with heat to get it to thicken. All the seasonings and condiments are also on the center of the line so two cooks can have access to them. Chinese kitchens are efficient at not wasting a thing. Premaking sauces and using MSG or Soy Sauce in advance is unthinkable .

          The issue of MSG use in Chinese restaurants is overblown in this day and age,...as it has been for the last 30 years.

          I Know of no reputable Chinese restaurant that makes any sauce for entrees ahead of time.....there is no place to store them....especially in a cramped Chinatown kitchen.

        2. d
          deepfry7 RE: nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 08:24 PM

          FYI, there's a bunch of literature that there's no conclusive evidence that MSG is harmful. I don't want to provoke any debate, but just to inform people.

          MSG adds great "umami flavoring". I have no issues with it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: deepfry7
            sgordon RE: deepfry7 Dec 16, 2013 08:04 AM

            I know of no quicker way to provoke a debate on chowhound than pointing that out. People gonna believe what they want to believe...

            1. re: sgordon
              debinqueens RE: sgordon Dec 16, 2013 04:33 PM

              sort of like the notion of 'gluten free.' studies show that about one tenth of the people who claim an allergy or sensitivity to gluten actually have a physical allergy or sensitivity to it.

              1. re: debinqueens
                sgordon RE: debinqueens Dec 16, 2013 05:18 PM

                True that. They all say they feel so much better - and of course they do, they've probably cut their carb intake in half.

          2. n
            nycguy20011 RE: nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 09:21 PM

            Intelligent debate is always healthy. :) MSG is not a real flavor---even if the food industries like to call it "Umami". What it really is is a flavor enhancer that excites your brain cells to give the sensation of a certain sweet/salty flavors. If it over-excites the neurons, that could lead to damaging/killing them. Everyone's brain is wired differently, so some people are more sensitive to MSG than others. True, tomatoes/mushrooms have glutamate, it's unprocessed, naturally-bound and therefore safer than the processed free glutamic acid that is then turns to MSG with sodium.

            I choose not to take the risk; for a while I didn't even know that of the health risks associated with MSG because I blindly believed the FDA's claims that it's generally safe and natural.

            There are many ingredients that hide MSG.

            Interesting article/sites where you can find lists of those ingredients: www.naturalnews.com/025066.html

            Bottom line is that no REAL chef should use MSG in any quantity or form.

            16 Replies
            1. re: nycguy20011
              fourunder RE: nycguy20011 Dec 15, 2013 09:26 PM

              Bottom line is that no REAL chef should use MSG in any quantity or form.

              That's simply not true.

              1. re: fourunder
                ipsedixit RE: fourunder Dec 15, 2013 09:30 PM

                I wonder if Grant Achatz considers himself a fake chef.


                1. re: ipsedixit
                  nycguy20011 RE: ipsedixit Dec 15, 2013 10:28 PM

                  Thanks for that link! A real chef shouldn't have to use flavor enhancers; health risks aside, it's like cheating because it tricks your brain cells (not your taste buds) into thinking that you like something while masking any off-flavors.

                  I once called a neurologist to ask him to talk what he knows about MSG, but when I mentioned the word "glutamate", he got nervous and said "Sorry, I can't talk to you, but thank you very, very, very much for asking" before hanging up the phone. (his exact words which I'll always remember)

                  Grant Achatz is right in the sense that MSG doesn't kill you right away---although it has killed people who are highly sensitive to it. What he might not know is that it has a cumulative effect on brain cells and to this day there has been no long-term studies to prove that it's safe. Keep in mind that the pro-MSG industry has billions of dollars and includes pharmaceuticals (yes, adjuvanted vaccines have MSG in the form of hydrolyzed gelatin, and some pills are made with gelatin).

                  So, the harsh truth is that I wouldn't consider Gran Achatz to be a real chef. Nor would I consider Lance Armstrong a real athlete for using steroids! Cheating is cheating whether someone admits it or not.

                  Check out this 60-minutes episode on MSG: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bwBfp...

                  1. re: nycguy20011
                    Bkeats RE: nycguy20011 Dec 16, 2013 06:38 AM

                    "when I mentioned the word "glutamate", he got nervous and said "Sorry, I can't talk to you"

                    perhaps this was his polite way way of saying I can't be bothered with talking about this topic again.

                    One of my relatives is a neurological/brain researcher. The number of times that some random person has brought up MSG has built up an automatic defense reaction in him resulting in an abbreviated conversation. He keeps a large jar of MSG in his kitchen FWIW.

                    If you're concerned about the long term cumulative health effects of MSG, perhaps you should also make sure you stay in the dark and out of the light of the sun since 10000 people a year die of melanoma. Haven't heard of anyone dying from MSG exposure.

                    Since MSG has been around for 100+ years, if there were truly harmful long term effects, they would be apparent by now especially in asian countries that have been regular users.

                    1. re: Bkeats
                      nycguy20011 RE: Bkeats Dec 16, 2013 12:50 PM

                      Skin cancer doesn't come from sunlight alone otherwise everyone who's exposed to sunlight would get melanoma. Sunlight on the skin causes sweat which is made up of toxins. The build-up of toxins on the skin can lead to skin cancer; those with low amount of toxins shouldn't have to worry as much. Unfortunately, it's hard to avoid toxins in our food, water and air, but knowledge is power.

                      1. re: nycguy20011
                        Bob Martinez RE: nycguy20011 Dec 16, 2013 01:23 PM

                        I've never heard that particular explanation - that skin cancer is due to sweat toxins. Could you link to a couple of sources that support that theory?


                        1. re: Bob Martinez
                          nycguy20011 RE: Bob Martinez Dec 16, 2013 08:32 PM

                          Two must-read books that help to support the theory:

                          Health and Nutrition Secrets
                          Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills

                          (both by author/neurosurgeon Dr. Russell L. Blaylock)

                          1. re: nycguy20011
                            scoopG RE: nycguy20011 Dec 17, 2013 04:00 AM

                            Nothing to see here folks...


                            1. re: nycguy20011
                              Bob Martinez RE: nycguy20011 Dec 17, 2013 04:51 AM


                              I had a brother who died of melanoma so I'm quite interested in this. Very interested indeed.

                              Nothing personal, but Blaylock seems to be a gold plated crank, right up there with the people wearing the aluminum hats to ward off alien brain waves.

                              Wikipedia -

                              "Blaylock opposes the use of vaccines. He has urged avoidance of the swine flu (H1N1) vaccination, which he claims is more dangerous than the infection itself. He has also given advice on what he feels an individual should do if faced with mandatory vaccination, although current research indicates that an effective vaccine is a vital tool in protecting the public and that the H1N1 vaccine is both safe and effective. Blaylock suggests that Vitamin D, fish oil and antioxidants are effective against catching the flu. According to McGill University's Joe Schwarcz, there is no evidence for these claims.

                              Blaylock also claims the supposed toxicity of numerous substances that according to scientific studies are safe at customary exposure levels. He has been quoted several times in media outlets regarding his position that MSG is toxic to the brain. He also states that the widely used artificial sweetener aspartame is toxic and may be the cause of multiple sclerosis. He has additionally cautioned against heavy use of the artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose). These positions are not supported by scientific consensus or regulatory bodies, as extensive studies support the safety of aspartame, sucralose, and MSG. Advertisements selling the 'Blaylock Wellness Report' at newsmax.com contain claims of additional health dangers, including fluoridated drinking water, fluoridated toothpaste, vaccines, dental amalgam, cholesterol drugs, pesticides, and aluminum cookware.

                              Blaylock has called the American medical system 'collectivist' and has suggested that health-care reform efforts under President Obama are masterminded by extragovernmental groups that wish to impose euthanasia. He blamed the purported collectivism of American medicine for the retirement of his friend Miguel Faria. According to Blaylock, the former Soviet Union tried to spread collectivism by covertly introducing illegal drugs and various sexually transmitted diseases into the United States. These positions have been characterized as "conspiracy theories"

                          2. re: nycguy20011
                            scoopG RE: nycguy20011 Dec 17, 2013 05:14 AM

                            Most cancers – and this includes melanoma - are caused by a combination of genetics and environment. Very few cancers are caused by environment alone. The only three I can think of off-hand are Mesothelioma (asbestos), Lung (smoking) and Liver (alcohol) cancer.

                        2. re: nycguy20011
                          ipsedixit RE: nycguy20011 Dec 16, 2013 07:55 AM

                          So, the harsh truth is that I wouldn't consider Gran Achatz to be a real chef.

                          Mike Godwin has just upchucked his lunch.

                        3. re: ipsedixit
                          coasts RE: ipsedixit Dec 17, 2013 05:04 AM

                          or our hometown hero, David Chang.


                        4. re: fourunder
                          Ttrockwood RE: fourunder Dec 15, 2013 09:39 PM

                          All japanese reataurants using kewpie mayo should be added to this list.....

                          1. re: Ttrockwood
                            Shirang RE: Ttrockwood Dec 16, 2013 08:18 AM

                            Also modern french, modern italian, new american.

                        5. re: nycguy20011
                          bronwen RE: nycguy20011 Dec 16, 2013 10:56 AM

                          All I know is that if I have anything with MSG in it I do not sleep at all that night . . . . so it must do something to the nervous system

                          1. re: bronwen
                            nycguy20011 RE: bronwen Dec 16, 2013 12:51 PM

                            Here's more info about the effects of MSG according to an ex-food scientist: http://www.msgtruth.org/

                        6. s
                          swannee RE: nycguy20011 Dec 16, 2013 06:36 AM

                          A point that hasn't been brought clearly enough in this stream is how often MSG is found in the prepared sauces and condiments that essentially every Chinese restaurant uses. Even if they add no MSG per se to a given dish, it is no guarantee that none will be present. Surely it is a matter of degree: there is a big difference between the small amount of MSG in some chili condiment or oyster sauce, and the teaspoons (and more) that are added as a commonplace in most Japanese and many Chinese restaurants, especially the very Americanized ones.
                          If you really have no tolerance at all for MSG, you should consider Indian or Southeast Asian cuisines, avoiding the Sino-Malay dishes in the latter.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: swannee
                            nycguy20011 RE: swannee Dec 16, 2013 12:58 PM

                            Even a trace amount of MSG can still be harmful to someone sensitive to MSG.

                            1. re: nycguy20011
                              swannee RE: nycguy20011 Dec 16, 2013 02:12 PM

                              I frankly think that the best advice to such a person is to avoid Chinese and Japanese food in restaurants. Period.

                              1. re: swannee
                                ipsedixit RE: swannee Dec 16, 2013 03:50 PM

                                swanee, didn't you mean to say ...

                                "I frankly think that the best advice to such a person is to avoid food in restaurants. Period."

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  sgordon RE: ipsedixit Dec 16, 2013 05:19 PM


                          2. Chandavkl RE: nycguy20011 Dec 16, 2013 09:19 AM

                            I hate to use the "Y" word, and indeed don't know if it's permitted on this board. But since all the other responses are off topic, the Y people do address the topic.


                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Chandavkl
                              ipsedixit RE: Chandavkl Dec 16, 2013 10:01 AM

                              Why would the word "Yelp" not be permitted?

                              That's like going to Burger King and being afraid of saying "Big Mac".

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                Chandavkl RE: ipsedixit Dec 16, 2013 10:23 AM

                                Chowhounds are better than Yelpers. Much better.

                                1. re: Chandavkl
                                  ipsedixit RE: Chandavkl Dec 16, 2013 10:30 AM

                                  Not sure it's as black-and-white as that. Both Yelp and Chowhound have their particular niche in the food world.

                                  I wouldn't want an Internet that is devoid of either.

                                  For example, in many ways a Chinese calligraphy brush is "better" than a ball point pen, but for taking notes at a class lecture, I'll settle for a Bic any day of the week.

                                  But in any event, surely, I can go to Luger and still utter "Outback Steakhouse" right?

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    Chandavkl RE: ipsedixit Dec 16, 2013 10:52 AM

                                    My major complaint with Yelp is lack of equvalency. Sea Harbour, Mr. Chow, and Joe's Chop Suey in Waterloo may all end up with the same star rating because each has its own constituency.

                                    1. re: Chandavkl
                                      ipsedixit RE: Chandavkl Dec 16, 2013 10:57 AM

                                      Chowhound can suffer from the same "lack of equvalency".

                                      No system is perfect, not Chowhound, and certainly not Yelp.

                                      But in conjunction one can certainly inch closer to perfection than simply going at it alone with only 1 of the 2.

                                      I also hear that Joe's Chop Suey in Waterloo does a bang up shark's fin version.

                                      1. re: Chandavkl
                                        MVNYC RE: Chandavkl Dec 16, 2013 02:41 PM

                                        Hey sorry but the Chinese food is better in Iqlauit

                                  2. re: ipsedixit
                                    Bkeats RE: ipsedixit Dec 16, 2013 10:24 AM

                                    You have to all it the Big King at BK

                                    1. re: Bkeats
                                      debinqueens RE: Bkeats Dec 16, 2013 04:35 PM

                                      well, since burger king predated mcdonald's....I wonder if the big king -- which existed when I was a child -- predated the big mac?

                                2. sgordon RE: nycguy20011 Dec 17, 2013 07:42 AM

                                  Maybe the conspiracy is that they really -don't- use MSG in China, and Chinese restaurants in the US are actually agents of the Chinese government (working in concert with the Illuminati) sent here to poison American's brains with glutamic acid. That's why they're an emerging world superpower and the US is on the decline.

                                  ...I have learned that debating MSG with a believer, well, you might as well be debating Renaissance architecture with a duck. Just not going to make any headway.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sgordon
                                    E Eto RE: sgordon Dec 17, 2013 09:11 AM

                                    I put MSG in the Koolaid.

                                  2. The Chowhound Team RE: nycguy20011 Dec 18, 2013 12:52 PM

                                    Folks, this thread has taken a number of tangents. We know that whether or not MSG affects people is controversial, but please take it as a given that this poster would like an MSG-free experience and suggest options for them, rather than debating whether their request is sound. Thanks.

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