There’s a widely held skepticism about MSG that started with a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 1968. In an opinion piece, a physician noted radiating pain in his arms, weakness and heart palpitations after eating at Chinese restaurants, and speculated that cooking wine, MSG or excessive salt might be to blame. Readers replied that they too experienced this “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” and MSG became suspect in the public eye. Its presence at the top of people’s minds has ebbed and flowed over the past 50 years, but it is in the public consciousness enough that quite a few food labels today often still tout a food’s MSG-free status. But is MSG bad for you?
Let’s take a look at what the science has to say.
No single ingredient in a good som tum acts alone; the rich flavors of som tum come from its layers of umami—dried shrimp, fish sauce and tomatoes mixed with the bitterness of the unripened papaya which also gives crunch and color, along with the sweetness of palm or cane sugar. Is your mouth watering yet?
Here are six simple ingredients that will enhance the flavor of your favorite savory dishes – to get them out of the ‘so-so’ zone. These ingredients will impart lots of umami flavor, so if you aren’t on the umami bandwagon yet, now’s the time. With lots of tailgate parties and sporting event meals just around the corner, give these a try – six ways to boost the deliciousness of your existing recipes or give new ones the wow factor! Indeed, it’s not necessary to toss out tried-and-true recipes, but by adding even a small amount of these umami-rich ingredients, you will see a very positive change in their savory goodness.
You’re familiar with the saying “You eat with your eyes first,” meaning of course that the good, or bad, visual aspect of food affects its appeal even before it passes our lips and into our mouths. The Chinese have a proverb, “You eat first with your eyes, then your nose, and then with your mouth.” It’s no surprise that our senses of sight and the smell of food impact our perception of flavor. Psychologists are finding that sound, however, also augments or suppresses the taste experience.
World-class chefs use MSG (monosodium glutamate) in their cooking, and perhaps you’re toying with the idea of giving it a try at home. Why should you go for it? Quite simply, because seasoning many foods with MSG makes them taste better!