With unmatched abilities to enhance the savory flavors in almost any dish, MSG has become indispensable to Asian kitchens! So, what does MSG taste like?
Short answer: This one-of-a-kind crystalline additive has similar & dissimilar flavoring activities to table salt in foods, although not without setbacks.
Apparently, their strict regulation in non-Asian regions is the primary reason for their seeming obscurity.
However, you’ll be amazed at how omnipresent they actually are in store shelf products and restaurant snacks on closer inspection.
Below, we’ll concisely enlighten you on:
- What MSG is
- How MSG is made
- What MSG tastes like
- The Uses of MSG
- Health benefits of cooking with MSG, and
- The Dangers of cooking with MSG
- What Is MSG?
- How Is MSG Made?
- What Does MSG Taste Like?
- What Are The Uses Of MSG?
- What Are The Health Benefits Of Consuming MSG?
- What Are The Dangers Of Consuming MSG?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Take Away
What Is MSG?
MSG is an abbreviation of Monosodium glutamate or sodium glutamate.
In other words, it is essentially a sodium salt of glutamic acid.
Like simple table salt, MSG improves our perception of other flavors. But it contains less sodium, making it an excellent substitute for people with cardiovascular issues.
On dissolving in water, MSG forms positive & negative ions.
The negative ions, glutamates, are responsible for savoriness or umami flavor.
Furthermore, MSG occurs naturally in foods including cheese and tomatoes.
In the lab, biochemists produce them via complex chemical techniques.
Lastly, it has multiple health benefits and, conversely, hazards.
How Is MSG Made?
Sorry to break it to you, but MSG can’t be homemade.
Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda was the first to prepare it in 1908.
Back then, he wanted to duplicate and isolate Kombu’s savory taste. Kombu is a popular edible seaweed in Japanese soups.
By 1909, he could mass extract MSG from defatted soybean and wheat.
So how did he do it?
He achieved the feat by hydrolyzing them with hydrochloric acid.
Between 1962 and 1973, biochemists could directly synthesize it with acrylonitrile.
But today, MSG is made from fermented cornstarch, beet, or sugar cane.
Naturally, glutamate is popular in biotic life. They primarily exist as protein constituents.
You can find them in tomatoes, specific sharp cheeses, and hydrolyzed protein products.
They are also in yeast extracts and soy products.
What Does MSG Taste Like?
Interestingly, MSG has a distinct flavor.
It isn’t sweet, bitter, salty, or sour, but umami.
Umami is the fifth basic taste in existence. It depicts are pleasantly savory taste. (*)
It is a Japanese loanword meaning “meaty” or “savory.”
Thus, MSG stimulates distinct taste buds to induce this flavor!
Replies will always seem somewhat subjective. So try this unparalleled additive and decide on its flavor for yourself.
Fun fact: Most people who've tasted MSG find it tricky to articulate. Some say it is reminiscent of seaweed or fish. But many feel that it hints at an earthy flavor, which isn't also wrong technically.
What Are The Uses Of MSG?
Flavoring food is the formest use of MSG.
In proper concentration, MSG will improve savory taste-active compounds in foods.
As earlier affirmed, people also use them as a table salt substitute.
MSG by mass percent has only 12% sodium. Table salt, on the other hand, has 75% sodium. This is about three-fourths of MSG’s content.
Because of its lower sodium content, health-conscious people prefer MSG to salt, especially cardiovascular patients.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Consuming MSG?
Note that MSG is an additive.
This means it doesn’t bring much new to the diet.
However, studies have proven its effectiveness for a healthy metabolism. (*)
In fact, glutamate also supports brain growth and development. It acts as a neurotransmitter there, making neurons more active.
Additionally, the amino acid contributes vastly to proper brain activities.
Some include retaining memory and stabilizing mood.
Then, it also enhances learning capacity and helps overcome brain injury effects.
Plus, glutamate facilitates protein synthesis. It regulates inflammatory processes and promotes bone formation.
What Are The Dangers Of Consuming MSG?
Unfortunately, MSG has always been a subject of controversy, health-wise.
While the World Health Organization has stated that it’s safe to use as an additive, various independent findings have proven some dangers.
One popular myth is the “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” Dr. Robert Kwok first coined the term after eating in a Chinese restaurant.
He experienced numbness, headaches, and other discomforts. Others have had chest pains and felt dizzy & lightheaded.
In addition, current research links MSG to obesity and it was also found that it resists insulin and raises blood sugar levels, hence causing diabetes.
Glutamate’s seeming essence to brain health can also backfire. Excess glutamate levels can overstimulate nerve cells, causing cell death.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can You Eat MSG Straight?
It’s possible, but we highly advise against it. MSG is a flavoring additive, so please treat it as such.
You won’t get ill if you directly consume a little, but you might feel headaches otherwise.
Its health hazards in food have been a bone of contention for a long. So avoid direct consumption to be on the safer side.
2. How Do You Store MSG Properly?
Just place the container in your pantry. Ensure its surrounding is cool and dry to protect its flavor and prevent moisture loss.
Surprisingly, it has a shelf life of 720 days (2 years).
3. What Are The Common Foods That Use MSG?
Chinese fast foods, snacks, seasoning blends, frozen meals, processed meats, condiments, instant noodle products, and soups.
Generally, People employ its savory flavor in any food of their choice. It’s just like salt.
4. Is MSG bad for you?
WHO has said that MSG is safe as a food additive.
However, independent researchers have linked it to some health hazards. Obesity, metabolic disorders, and brain conditions are some.
You should be fine if you follow regulations regarding its intake. But please limit its usage if you feel any discomfort.
5. How much MSG is too much?
Every region has its administration overseeing its regulation. They suggest the recommended daily amount.
But generally, it’s better not to consume MSG daily. When you use MSG, don’t exceed 0.55gm of it that day.
Ultimately, we hope this article answers your question.
MSG is an exceptional flavoring by most tasting standards.
In particular, MSG complements the blandest of dishes, making it indispensable to most secret formulas.
Research has proven its vast health benefits and contrary risks. There are standard amounts to consume daily, but your body’s reaction can guide you.
For first-timers, MSG is a must-try for your next big meal!