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Mar 27, 2014 09:47 PM

For Future Reference--Chinese Restaurants That Don't Use MSG

ClarissaW strikes again! However if I'm going to pay Chi Lin prices, I want my MSG.

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  1. The recently defunct Farm Cuisine in MPK also did not use msg. Apparently, Chinese like their msg too much; Farm Cuisine would have done much better on the Westside.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cfylong

      Not convinced they could have done well anywhere. I hope the real reason they folded is because they were mediocre & strange. They talked the talk (local, sustainable, organic, blahblah) but the one time we went there I was served tomato that looked & tasted like a generic factory farmed tomato. The food overall was uninspired & meh. Almost like they read a book about localsustainable blahblah & decided to start a restaurant, without actually having any experience eating or cooking within the existing culture of those (diners, farms & restaurants) who walk the walk.

      Look at Green Zone. They know what they're doing & they're always busy. We've become regulars in the short time we've lived here.

      1. re: indigirl

        Perhaps you may mean Farm Cuisine was inconsistent. Their grassfed filet mignon was usually terrific, and the price--$16 quite unbelievable. I think their problem was they were too purist in their push for total organic Chinese food, which resulted in some bland dishes. If they had gone halfway, like Green Zone--using marginally organic foods albeit with "regular" sauces, they would have been much more successful.

        1. re: cfylong

          I do admit I only went once, so could not say whether they were inconsistent. Sounds like I missed out on one of their best/most consistent items, since I don't eat beef.

          In my experience, a commitment to sustainable sourcing of ingredients usually results in more flavor & deliciousness, not less. I really don't see the connection between bland & organic.

          1. re: indigirl

            A great deal of Chinese cooking involves sauces, which in skilled hands, enhances the main dish. These sauces tend to include salt, sugar, and msg. Farm Cuisine excludes these "unhealthy" I guess "unorganic" ingredients in their sauces, particularly their soups, which may result in a blander taste. I am not 100% certain, but my taste buds detect Green Zone sauces as not much different from most other restaurants. Certainly, Farm Cuisine makes clear their use of organic meats and vegies; Green Zone tends to use organic vegetables, not so much their proteins. I enjoy Green Zone as much as you do, and praise their business model, but if I wanted healthy Chinese food I would go with Farm Cuisine.

            1. re: cfylong

              Ah, I see where we are using the vocabulary differently. Unorganic & unhealthy are 2 different (though overlapping) things to me. Organic means grown within specific parameters that are designed to minimize harm to the environment (see for details); healthy can mean a lot of different things. Salt by definition can't be organic. Sugar can, because you can grow sugar cane organically. Just to pick another "unhealthy" example, lard can also be organic, if you are raising the pig organically. As for MSG, there are lots of other ways to get umami into your food.

              My body feels a lot better eating at Green Zone than at most other Chinese restaurants around here. My body was mostly fine with Farm Cuisine too, with the notable exception of my mouth -- which is too important to compromise on ;)

    2. We got to install microwave ovens, custom kitchen deliveries?

      8 Replies
      1. re: TheOffalo

        I shoulda learned to play the guitar. I shoulda learned to play them drums...

        1. re: TheOffalo

          "I want my M - S - G, I want my M - S - G..."

          running though the background vocals in the chorus...

          1. re: Tripeler

            Isn't MSG required for it to be somewhat traditional ????

            Dare I say pretty damn authentic ??????

              1. re: kevin

                david chang's take on that is that when immigrants came to the US, they had no formal culinary training beyond what they cooked in their homes, and they discovered that adding MSG made what they cooked more palatable. i could see how some cooks would have come to rely on MSG as a crutch and use it indiscriminately.

                1. re: barryc

                  if that is indeed what david chang said, then he has no idea wtf he's talking about.

                  Asian (yes, blanket statement) restaurant cooks have buckets of MSG on stand by, since before Chang was born. Some restaurants even offer MSG on the table. MSG usage in US has nothing to do w/ Asian immigrants and how they can't cook. And to say Asian immigrants can't cook at home is... just offensive. Without the immigrant cooks (home or restaurant, or otherwise), from where would he have "borrow" the concepts of Korean ssam and Taiwanese baos? *facepalm*

                  1. re: TonyC

                    perhaps it would make more sense if i clarified and specified the use of additional MSG as being in these cantonese-ameican restaurants. but stay angry if you must.

                    1. re: barryc

                      Both this story (immigrants who can't cook) and the other usual tale (dumb Americans who need the "authentic" food altered to their taste) are ignorant nonsense promoted by holier-than-thou poseurs.

          2. MSG is also used pretty liberally in Japanese food, except sashimi, as well, under the ajinomoto name and in pretty much all soup broths, except some meat and bone Chinese and Vietnamese soups that require hours of simmering.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cfylong

              In fact, it was the Japanese company "Aji-no-moto" (origin of taste) that isolated and refined glutamates. A lot of households have a shaker of Ajinomoto on the table.

              1. re: cfylong

                also in kewpie mayonnaise; typically used rather liberally in making certain sushi rolls.

              2. We split some discussion that got into the MSG is good/bad debate over to the Food Media and News board, to keep this discussion more local and focused on where you can eat without MSG if you fall on the MSG is bad side of the debate.

                Check out that thread here:

                1. chandaval, what's your favorite non-MSG joint ?????

                  thanks buddy.