“If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in China have a headache?” asked Jeffrey L. Steingarten, food critic at Vogue since 1989 and a leading food writer in the United States. And as a daughter of Chinese immigrants, and sister to a retired Chinese restaurant owner I ask my own question: “Why is it called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome?”
The simplest answer of course is the oft-repeated and familiar story of how it started with a 1968 letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) from Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok, complaining about radiating pain in his arms, weakness and heart palpitations after eating at Chinese restaurants. He speculated that cooking wine, MSG or excessive salt might be to blame. Entitled “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” by a NEJM editor, responses to Kwok’s letter poured in with complaints including headaches, stomachaches and dizziness. Scientists jumped to research the phenomenon of “MSG allergic reactions.” Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was considered a legitimate disorder by many in the medical establishment.
It’s no secret that I love pizza. Seriously. Love it. It’s often my Friday night go-to dinner because it’s quick, easy, and a way to use up all of the leftover vegetables from earlier in the week. But, occasionally, I’ll make pizza during the week as a destination dish rather than an end of the week afterthought. It recently dawned on me that many of the ingredients commonly used in pizza are naturally high in glutamate, the amino acid responsible for umami flavor, so I set out to capitalize on that and create the ultimate umami bomb pizza. Here’s what I created.
As we have discussed in other MSGdish.com blogs over the years, there are five basic taste sensations: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami.
In addressing this topic, I would like to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Silly) theory. That’s why I reviewed a number of articles that did an excellent job of compiling basic information about taste. From these articles, I’ve isolated some statements to share with you as quick-and-easy-to-read food for thought facts. These points may generate some ‘ah-ha’ moments about why you might say “yum” while others say “yuck” to certain foods.
As mentioned in “part 1” of this blog, I’ve isolated some statements from various articles about taste to share with you as quick-and-easy-to-read food for thought facts. These points may generate some ‘ah-ha’ moments about why you might say yum while others say yuck to certain foods.
You can no doubt relate to some of these facts in the same way that I did. That’s why I included some personal comments after each “fact” that I found in my readings.
The latest U.S. dietary recommendations announced earlier this year emphasize the need for Americans to significantly reduce sodium in their diets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of all Americans eat too much sodium in their daily diets.
But for those of us who love salty foods and are used to grabbing the salt shaker the minute dinner is served, how do we lower our sodium intake without sacrificing taste? A new research study on monosodium glutamate (MSG) and its effect on palatability is enlightening. The results are pretty tasty if we say so ourselves. While we’ve addressed MSG and taste in several of our blogs here at MSGdish, this research offers further proof of how important MSG can be to enhance the flavor of food (in this case, spicy soups).