Lecturer 1: In today’s lecture, I’m going to talk about monosodium glutamate, or MSG, as it’s more commonly known. Now. MSG, as you probably know, is a flavour enhancer, which is used particularly in Chinese and Japanese cooking. Today I am going to explore why it is so popular in these……….
cuisines and more importantly, how does it enhance the flavour of food? The main reason why MSG is more commonly used in Japanese meals is tradition. For many thousands of years, the Japanese have incorporated a type of seaweed known as kombu in their cooking as they discovered it had the ability to make food taste better. But it wasn’t until 19 0 wait that the ingredient in kombu, which was responsible for the improvement in flavour, was actually discovered to be glutamate by scientists working there from 19 0 wait until 1956 glutamate was produced commercially in Japan by a very slow and expensive means of extraction. It was in 1956 that the speed of the process was improved and industrial production increased dramatically and still continues to increase to this day. In fact, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of MSG are produced all over the world today. So what exactly is chemistry? Well, monosodium glutamate contains 78.2% glutamate, 12.2% sodium and 9.6% water. Glutamate is an amino acid that can be found naturally in all protein containing foods. Um, so this includes foods such as meat and cheese. It is widely known that Chinese and Japanese food contains MSG, but many people don’t seem to be aware that it is also used in foods and other parts of the world. For example, it is found in commercially made Italian pizzas in American fast food, and in Britain, MSG is used in things like potato crisps. So how exactly does MSG work well in the Western world, we commonly talk of four tastes, and I’m sure you’re all familiar with the concepts of sweet, sour, bitter and salt. Well, in 19 0 wait, he could not. A Ikeda identified 1/5 taste, and it is thought that MSG intensifies this naturally occurring taste in some food. It does make perfect evolutionary sense that we should have the ability to detect or taste glutamate because it is the amino acid, which is most common in natural foods. John Prescott, an associate professor at the University of Chicago, suggests that this fifth taste serves a purpose just as the other tastes, too. He suggests that it signals to us the presence of protein and food in the same way that sweetness indicates that a food contains energy giving carbohydrates. Bitterness, he says, alerts us to toxins in the food, while sour nous warns us of spoilage and saltiness signals the presence of minerals. So what else do we know about this fifth taste.