Naughty Cooking Words

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by ritafajita, Mar 4, 2002.

  1. ritafajita

    ritafajita

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    I would be interested to hear what people on this board think about (can I say this here?)...MSG :eek: Who thinks its okay? Who thinks its heresy?

    Someone at work today had a book of "restaurant recipes", and that got us on the subject. We thought it was interesting, and questionable, that none of the recipes called for MSG, since all of us have worked in kitchens at one time or another where it was used. The first full service "real" restaurant I ever worked in laced everything with it (but, then, I don't live in much of a "food town"). So, we're wondering, is MSG the dirty little secret of the restaurant world, or is it just highly overused where we live?

    RF
     
  2. suzanne

    suzanne

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    My opinion: I would NEVER, EVER use it in any professional kitchen. For several reasons:
    1. Too many people are sensitive to it (myself included) and it can make people feel awful
    2. Who needs the extra sodium, anyway?
    3. If you're using ingredients with real flavor, and handling them properly, you shouldn't need it.[/list=1]

      Why add an ingredient you don't need -- that costs you money? It's just throwing money away, even that little bit.
     
  3. jim berman

    jim berman

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    In the corporate sector, we are often asked for nutrional info and specifically if the soups/sauces have added MSG. One of the 'particulars' that we must be cautious of in our purchasing practice, is that none of the products, either pre-prepared or made in house have any MSG. Written in stone as a company directive.
    My understanding is that MSG was branded GRAS (Generally Rearded As Safe) by the USDA, but there is a phobia that may, or may not, be substantiated by people's claims of becoming ill after consuming Oriental food, notorious for containing MSG. I may be incorrect, but from my reading, MSG is naturally occuring in mushrooms and it is derived from mushrooms for commercial production. What harm can come from mushrooms?
    Shroomgirl, am I right in noting the origin of MSG?
     
  4. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    ummmm.....I get seriously swollen fingers when I ingest enough MSG....I have friends that get outrageous headaches.

    Personally I consume copious quantities of a multitude of fungi and only get stomach upset from Chanterelles.

    I have heard that about shrooms, but have not delved into it...
     
  5. ritafajita

    ritafajita

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  6. kimmie

    kimmie

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    Here's more of our thoughts on MSG, RitaFajita. Just click here
     
  7. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    or avoid the dashi. My question to you, Rita, is why do you think it's odd that recipes don't contain MSG? I've never seen MSG on an ingredient list in the last 15 years, so in my view, it seems odd that a recipe would call for MSG. I'd also like to say that there is nothing mystical about a restaurant kitchen, really, there's no magic, and there are no "dirty little secrets."

    Kuan
     
  8. ritafajita

    ritafajita

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    Sorry, I guess I didn't say what I meant. I don't find it odd that recipes don't call for MSG. What we were talking about at work was this cookbook that had a lot of recipes from mid-scale restaurant chains. We felt that it was unlikely that none of these restaurants use MSG in their food, although none of the recipes in the book mentioned it.

    One restaurant I used to go to had this hot sauce I liked. I tried for years to recreate it at home, only to finally figure out that the ingredient that kept alluding me was none other than, yep, MSG. Pretty dissapointing discovery, actually.

    All I'd like to know is, and this is what I intended to say before, is if they use it, why not say so?

    RF
     
  9. monpetitchoux

    monpetitchoux

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    Ever occur to us that European cooking is all about concentrating naturally occuring glutamates? Take demiglace. We've concentrated the glutamates during the reduction process rather than adding in powdered form. Glutamates enhance our ability to savor protein. I think that's why demi makes everything taste so good. Other foods reportedly high in glutamates include mushrooms and tomatoes.
     
  10. suzanne

    suzanne

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    Monpetitchoux, that's exactly the point: "naturally occurring" versus introduced, "artificial" flavors. Like the difference between real smoked meat and meat that has "smoke flavor" added. REAL food, handled properly, has real flavor, and there should be no need to bump it up with adulteration that can make people sick. It strikes me that anyplace that adds MSG is doing so because they DON'T use the best ingredients they could afford, or deal with them disrespectfully. In other words, they're being cheap and ignorant. (I know, these are very harsh words, but that's how I feel.)

    Okay, I'm calmer now. Rita's original post reminded me of a place I used to work, where they made hors d'oeuvres. Because they had very little idea what they were doing, when developing a new recipe they just kept throwing more ingredients into it. The idea was the same as adding MSG -- try to make something tasty that just doesn't have it to begin with. I'll bet that if they hadn't considered themselves "high-end," they would have used MSG. (Come to think of it, they ARE cheap and ignorant!)
     
  11. ritafajita

    ritafajita

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    That's a good point about demiglace. Sort of a make-your-own MSG?? I read an article that said certain cheeses are high in glutamates, too. The author claims there is more MSG (or "free glutamates" which is precisely what MSG is) in a pizza with tomato sauce than in mushu pork. The link to this article is
    http://www.healthcentral.com/drdean/...s.cfm?id=50602

    I'm still going back and forth on this one, though. The point about Smoked Flavor not being the same as smoked is valid, too, except that it should be noted that MSG is not artificial like liquid smoke. I mean, its made out of real food - just molasses instead of brown sauce.

    But, we add salt to things that are not naturally salty, and we add sugar to things that are not naturally sweet. And we do this even though some people have adverse reactions to those substances - people with high blood pressure to salt and diabetics to sugar. Sometimes we rely too heavily on salt and sugar, and that's bad. But appropriate, moderate use of these substances is an integral part of cooking. Why should the so-called "5th flavor" MSG be veiwed any differently?

    I'm still kicking it around in my head.
    RF
     
  12. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    That's a great point Rita. Categorically it's no different from sodium, or DSG, or other salts. There's nothing inherently wrong in using MSG if it's just another taste sensation to be treated the same way as salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. However, modern civilization, in its infinite wisdom, has declared anything outside its realm of understanding evil and therefore should be banished altogether. It's difficult to come up with a different model for taste that accounts for umami which is also in tune with our conception of taste. More often than not, such things require a totally different approach to the way we look at thing, and IMO, we have always been reluctant to change. Think about the switch in paradigms between Newtonian and Quantum Mechanics. It took almost fifty years for Quantum Physics to appear in textbooks.

    Kuan
     
  13. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    ...if you prepare food with real ingredients of the best quality contributing the most flavor.

    I had heard lots of Chinese restaurants used MSG but didn't have a reaction until I was about 21. I was enjoying a plate of Szechuan Beef with shredded carrots and all of a sudden part of my face went numb. It was like someone drew a pencil line right under my nose, down both sides of my face, and down to my neck. It was the WEIRDEST thing! That was enough to convince me no one should use it.
     
  14. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Chiffonade,

    That was probably from the cat saliva :) OK, that was bad. How do you recognize a chinese restaurant? NO TRASHCANS! Bad bad Kuan...

    Kuan :D
     
  15. markdchef

    markdchef

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    From various sources on the web I found info on msg. I believe it is the essential ingredient in Accent condiment sold in most stores. I would never dream of using msg.

    What Is MSG?

    MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid and a form of glutamate. It is sold as fine crystals like salt or sugar. It is generally tasteless on its own. When added to foods it enhances the flavors, but no one knows why or how it does it. Some scientists believe that MSG stimulates glutamate receptors in the tongue to boost the naturally occurring flavors.

    MSG is made by a fermenting process using starch, sugar beets, sugar cane, or molasses.

    If you use tomatoes, mushrooms or soy sauce you never have a need for msg since these foods naturally contain glutamate.

    In lab experiments msg injected rats developed nerve and brain damage. Doesn't that sound appetizing?

    I am sure some restaurants use it to boos the flavor of mediocre or ill prepared food, but I doubt they will ever admit to it. If they do they open themselves up to more lawsuits.
     
  16. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, I hate adding msg to my rats too. I prefer simple salt and pepper, brings out the natural flavor.

    Kuan
     
  17. markdchef

    markdchef

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    Usually rat calls for a much stronger herb or spice such as cumin or tarragon.

    ha ha
     
  18. pastachef

    pastachef

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    That was so funny, Kuan. Especially since I just helped my grandson do a report on China. :D
     
  19. chef nosko

    chef nosko

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    Hi Rita:

    I have been a chef for over 20 years, and have never worked in a restaurant that used MSG. From Washington State, to Rhode Island, to New York City, to Virginia, and now in Boston.
    There was not a big bottle on the spice shelf where everyone would throw a little in to inhance our dishes.
    We would not even think of it.

    Now....there are some (mostly Chinese) restaurants that use MSG. And, I repeat some.......most of the really good Chinese restaurants in Boston, avoid using it.....many of them list this on their menus.

    In most of the establishments I have worked in, we would not only-- not use MSG, but not use products that contained MSG.

    I am not going to get into the debate whether the reactions are real or not. I do not know......I know several people who say they have reactions to it. That is reason enough not to have it in products to the masses.

    I know that you can not get away from it completely......there are products with "no added MSG"....etc ......
    But, I think most chefs do their best to avoid it as much as possible.

    Chef Nosko
    Boston, MA
     
  20. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    The pendulum swings first far to the one side and then again far to the other . I think that the truth about MSG lies somewhere more in the middle , of course thats just my opinion .
    P.S. Hey Kuan , I like mine in a real spicey BBQ sauce , finger licken good .