How Can MSG Be the Purest Taste of Umami?

seasoning food

Not only does MSG give dishes a savory, umami taste, but it is considered to be the purest form of umami. Why is that? And what does it even mean?

First, let’s explore what umami is.

“Natural” versus… Natural?

I recently had the pleasure of attending a standing-room only session on umami at the annual meeting of the American Culinary Federation. I will admit to being a bit self-conscious in this room full of culinary experts in their beautiful stiff white chef coats. (I was an inch away from purchasing a coat of my very own at the little stand in the meeting exhibit hall, but somehow it seemed a bit inauthentic. Like wearing a stethoscope at a medical meeting. But I digress…)

Chef Chris Koetke, Vice President at the Culinary Institute at Kendall College, spoke eloquently about the human’s innate drive toward taste and nourishment and the chef’s complimentary drive to meet those needs by delivering good-tasting foods. He explained the fifth taste of umami and how the amino acid glutamate is picked up by receptors on the tongue, sending biological signals of “protein” to our brains. Chef Chris talked about the many sources of glutamate in foods – it’s one of the most abundant amino acids in our bodies and in our foods.

Then the story got more interesting.

Want to Make “The Colonel’s” Savory Chicken at Home?

KFC Fried Chicken Recipe

The secret blend of 11 herbs and spices that go into the original Kentucky Fried Chicken Recipe is a closely guarded formula and one of the biggest culinary mysteries.

None other than the Chicago Tribune recently published an article about making a savory spice mix at home to replicate this famous secret recipe.

What is MSG and Is It Bad for You?

What is MSG video

According to a recent article in Medical Daily, monosodium glutamate is a popular food additive that has gotten a rather bad reputation and people want to know is MSG bad.

The article continues: “In a recent video, the team at Brit Lab helped us to better understand the fact and fiction surrounding MSG so you can determine for yourself whether or not you want to continue eating it.

If MSG is So Bad for You, Why Doesn’t Everyone in China Have a Headache?

“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.