The Truth About MSG and Asian Cuisine

Asian cuisine has been long associated with the use of MSG in its preparation. The funny thing is that MSG is so closely identified with Asian cuisine, but it’s used just as frequently in other cuisines. However, there are many restaurants that do not use it, and make a point of telling their customers that they do not use MSG.

In my neighborhood, there are more than a dozen Chinese restaurants within a ten block radius of my home, and only ONE of them does NOT use MSG. On a visit to that restaurant early last year, I struck up a conversation with the owner, telling her that I was very happy that her restaurant doesn’t use MSG. She told me that she herself has an MSG allergy, and that is the reason why her establishment does not cook with it.

The restaurants that do not use MSG will ALWAYS state it on their menus. If it doesn’t say that, always assume they use it. Yes, you could request that they not, but note that the Wok and other cooking utensils used to prepare food throughout the day come into contact with MSG daily. And there’s still a chance for exposure to it.

There are other ways to avoid MSG in Asian cuisine. Believe it or not, MSG is easier to avoid in Asian restaurants than in American ones.

Here’s some tips for how you can avoid MSG.

*Avoid the All-You-Can-Eat Chinese buffets! They will 99% of the time include MSG in their food.

* Avoid Soy Sauce (try vinegar and wasabi to dip your sushi instead)
* Avoid soups and sauces.
* Avoid seaweed & instead of sushi rolls have sashimi or order sushi pieces a la carte.
*  If ordering sashimi, ask if the rice has been seasoned.
* NO seafood or fish extracts! These ALWAYS contain MSG.
* Avoid supermarket packaged sushi.
* Avoid saki – sometimes MSG is added to warmed saki to remove the bitterness.
* Avoid sauces and dishes like Egg Foo Yung which consist of sauces likely to contain MSG
* Dim Sum – avoid the sauces served with it.
* In Korean restaurants steer clear of Kim Chee, the red pickled cabbage – it often contains MSG.
* Avoid marinated meats.
* Avoid Soy dishes.

If you’re ordering just plain vegetables over rice, be sure to request they are not sauteed in sauce.

Enjoy the green tea and ginger. Those are great for you.

When you’re dining out be sure to ask your server to ask the chef how the food will be prepared and request that no MSG be added to your food. Doing that and just knowing what to avoid will go a long way in keeping you safe from a bout of MSG poisoning.

NEXT: The Long-Term Effects of MSG on the Body.