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Dec 15, 2013 01:51 PM

MSG-free Chinese restaurants in Chinatown

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

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

      1. 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

          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 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, 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. 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

            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

              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

                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. 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:

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

            16 Replies
            1. re: nycguy20011

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

              That's simply not true.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  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:

                  1. re: nycguy20011

                    "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

                      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

                        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

                          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


                              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 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"

                          1. re: nycguy20011

                            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

                          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: fourunder

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

                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                            Also modern french, modern italian, new american.

                        4. re: nycguy20011

                          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

                            Here's more info about the effects of MSG according to an ex-food scientist: