MSG is not bad for you.
Despite food scientists like Harold McGee sticking up for MSG, and the blizzard of food writers extolling its magical powers of deliciousness, the perception that it is somehow uniquely dangerous persists. Earlier this week, David Chang, the chef who has made defending MSG a bit of a hobby, tweeted about adding it to popcorn.
There was enough pushback, citing migraines and general bad-for-you-ness, that Andrew Zimmern, another chef, took to Instagram to defend the use of MSG in both home and restaurant settings.
It’s not just tastier popcorn we’re missing out on by eschewing the stuff. The Japanese chemist who discovered monosodium glutamate in the early 1900s, and who founded a company to produce it, envisioned it as a twentieth century path to better nutrition, for Japan and beyond. Kikunae Ikeda noticed that very different foods, like miso, asparagus, tomatoes, and cheese, all shared a common savory quality. Working with kombu dashi, a Japanese broth made from a type of kelp, he isolated that flavor and discovered MSG, a compound of sodium and the amino acid glutamate.
I love me some MSG applied from my delightful Ajinomoto glass dispenser. It doesn’t take much to take most anything to another level of deliciousness. My current favorite is sprinkling a bit on baked potatoes before the plain yoghurt (instead of sour cream) goes on. We’re a bit short on cheese.
As an occasional migraine sufferer, MSG plays zero role in any flare ups as far as I can tell. The Guardian has a long article on the topic.