19 August 2010


Dear TCG

Why does Chinese food contain so much MSG? I went to to a restaurant with my boyfriend and we came away both of us felt our throats incredibly dry from I think from the MSG in the food.


MSG chemical formula
Dear Abby

Chinese restaurant syndrome? I sit on the wall regarding this tbh. One of my gfs had a psychosomatic reaction to MSG in foods and would complain of exceptional thirst and tightness of her throat. I just ate a sticky rice ball thingie for breakfast and feel the same way myself sometimes.

There are 100s of arguments both sides, but quite simply I believe it can be reduced to two things:
  • Laziness
  • Cheapness
I can cook quite well, anybody who has had Chinese soup will realise it is a very different thing to westernised soups. Westernised soups tend to be thicker and have more stuff in it. While Chinese soups (and I don't mean the shit you get in Chinese take outs which is Chinese people will say what the fuck is this?) are water thin and can have stuff in it or not. Lo sun soup I forget the Chinese for it (and I just installed Unbuntu and can't figure out how to type Chinese on it) for instance you need corn, melon, carrots, lean pork and a few berries which I don't know the name of they came in unmarked packets. Oh and Salt.

You chop everything up except the meat and boil it then simmer it for hours and hours until the water changes colour where the essence of the vegetables comes out and the meat makes the soup sweet. This takes all day and produces a deep savory taste, which I don't really care for because my taste buds are mostly dead. Russians took care of this with their uber vodka the girlfriend seems to like this fact though ;) You have to regulate the temperature just right, too hot and it breaks down too low and it doesn't break down enough.

This requires a shed load of effort, for family effort is ok same with close friends. My dad for instance has the knowledge. His dad taught him how to make an incredible dish which he is pretty famous for, anybody who came round to his home when I was a child would ask he make this. When he made a big batch people would travel from London even Holland to eat this stuff. He won't even tell me how to make this stuff. Though my dad's Guanxi is pretty incredible since he was also the moonshine king of Southern England for years.

Much like 99% of people Chinese people don't know how to cook rice properly, they bung it in an electric cooker and come back later, while cooking with gas requires that you watch it and regulate the temperature properly. It may surprise you that cooking rice on a wood fire isn't easy that is without burning it to a crisp or having it become dry and inconsistent. So instead of bothering to do it properly they bung it in a rice cooker.

While if you are a chef in a restaurant, the customers have somewhat less of a connection to you and the bosses will pressure you to work quickly therefore a short cut to this is throw some MSG into it.

Cheapness is the same, rather than using the shed load of expensive ingredients you can use inferior ingredients to produce a facsimile of the taste, its not quite the same of course but it costs considerably less.

This is NOT exclusive to Asian cuisine though! Simply westernised food has shit loads of the stuff in it. Marmite for instance is almost pure MSG, even though it calls itself yeast extract. Marketing men are extra insidious in this and say NO MSG, and stick yeast extract into it instead or an ingredient which has MSG in it. Or simply Parmesan cheese or Japanese seaweed flakes which contain MSG naturally in it. As said I sit on the wall about this, but simply why do they need to mislead people like this and hide it? Why isn't there any truth in labelling? An old list is here

As said I sit on the wall and prepare most food from scratch anyway and tend not to really go for or go out of my way to avoid it, I mean it is in everything! Heh and it isn't as if the cheap 400KRW noodles I lived off in Seoul could be defined as nutritious could they?

But here are some links.

MSG makes rats go blind Which might go someway to explain why 80%+ of people in Asia need to wear glasses while the incidence anecdotal anyway there are fewer wearers of glasses in the UK though this might be due to contact lens usage.

MSG ain't so bad says the guardian.

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