The MSG controversy

If you’re paranoid about eating MSG, or just interested in the subject, you might like to listen to this American PRI discussion in which Dr Katharine Woessner explains the lack of scientific evidence against MSG, and I talk from a Chinese culinary point of view:

And in other developments (!), here’s Diane Leach of PopMatters using my books as the gateway into the mysterious delights of Sichuan pepper:

3 Responses to “The MSG controversy”

  1. Will

    I will sometimes add a small amount of flavor enhancer when cooking Chinese food at home, and it is really amazing how much difference it can make.

    One thing it’s worth noting is that a lot of restaurants probably use seasonings that contain more than just MSG, usually other flavor enhancers like disodium guanylate and / or disodium inosinate (Knorr seems to have all 3), which magnify the effect of the natural glutamates.

    At the risk of sounding like one of “those people”, I have found that tyramine rich foods of any kind (including fermented foods like soy sauce and other things commonly found in Chinese cooking, but also naturally umami foods like tomatoes, mushrooms) seems to trigger headaches in me, and they are listed as possible migraine triggers. So I wonder if this might be the actual cause of some of people’s problems.

  2. Bill H

    I started experiencing classic episodes of visual migraine which I could not explain in my 40s. I started recording when they occured and found I had about 3 each 2 months. Went to live in China for 6 months and they were at about 3 per 2 weeks.
    Got steered in the MSG direction by Google and pinned my episodes down to 24 to 48 hours after eating food with MSG.
    For me, i’m sure there is a link, but as I don’t get pain I can cope with it but tend to avoid foods containing flavour enhancers.

  3. dave skreiner

    a) Defenders of glutamate will usually waffle about how it’s okay to add a small pinch of MSG to food.
    The chinese restaurant next door uses a heaped tablespoon of MSG and a heaped tablespoon of salt in EVERY dish, causing discomfort and intense thirst for hours afterwards.
    I believe that idiot cooks who overdose their victims on salt (MSG is a salt variant) are to blame for the “MSG allergy” controversy. The same idiots are also the reason I avoid cheap chinese restaurants.

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