Weekly series Crimes Against Food takes an irreverent but informative look at culinary misdemeanours.
This week Ganesh Raj takes on the much-maligned MSG ...
What do Pad Thai, Butter Chicken, and Beef with Black Bean sauce have in common? And no, it's not that each one has degenerated from its original version into a westernised pile of slop.
It's that they all have MSG in them.
That's right. I said it. Monosodium Glutamate. The ingredient that strikes fear in the hearts of all raw food eating, slow food loving, self righteous, overly health conscious, boring as hell, Michael Bolton loving foodies. Sorry Michael.
But seriously. Why do so many people, even the educated ones, still believe that MSG is bad for our health? Most of Asia uses it. Could 4.3 billion people be wrong?
In fact, in large quantities, salt is more harmful to our health than MSG is. When restaurants don't use MSG, they just add more salt, which is worse.
I think it's just because the name "monosodium glutamate" sounds too scary. If we called salt by its chemical name, I think the same thing would happen: "Would you like some sodium chloride on your French fries?"
People complain about feeling lethargic after eating Chinese food. But what about that sloppy, oily and creamy Indian meal; or that French meal loaded with butter, cream and cheese; or the KFC 'Double Down', which in itself has probably caused more heart attacks than the news that the Backstreet Boys reformed did.
The main reason, I believe, that Chinese food got this bad name is xenophobia. Why else would one culture get the rap for this mild mannered salt substitute being responsible for all the ills that seem to be blamed on MSG?
And what's worse is that MSG was invented by the Japanese!
It is nearly impossible to avoid MSG in any grocery store in Japan. Those poor misjudged Chinese people!
It is true that using MSG in everything is cheating. But the same can be said for enhancing naturally occurring sugars in fruit with a dusting of icing sugar, or adding a dash of salt or soy sauce into a stir-fry when the flavour is slightly lacking.
So everyone, please, relax! Because if adding MSG is cheating, then stop buying records that have been produced using Auto-tune. It's the same thing.
- What's your take on the most-hated ingredient in food?
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