I was wandering the aisles of a large Asian supermarket in Gwinnett County the other day when I noticed that the packaging for Ajinomoto — the leading Japanese manufacturer of monosodium glutamate — had gotten a makeover.
Now these white crystalline granules define themselves as “umami seasoning” while a banner further states that MSG is “the essence of umami.”
Umami as the fifth primary taste is now a widely accepted notion; you won’t have to read too deeply into too many food articles or watch TV cooking competitions without hearing someone praise the umami flavor of mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, fish sauce, dry cheeses or a host of other foods that register on the tongue’s glutamate receptors as a savory, meaty, rounding depth charge of sensation.
The quickest path to this is MSG, a salt designed to taste of umami just as sodium chloride tastes of saltiness.
People are always surprised that I keep a jar of MSG by the stove. We cook a lot of vegetarian food at home, and I was taking to sneaking chicken bouillon cubes into the recipes. It eventually occurred to me that my palate didn’t want the salt or the (ahem) “chicken flavor” of these cubes, but the MSG contained within.
I don’t use a lot, and no one has complained of ill effects. Does anyone else out there cook with MSG, or do you find that it doesn’t agree with you?