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Chinese cooking spice: Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), is also called Flavor Powder or Gourmet Powder. It is obtained from glutamic acid, which is present in a wide range of vegetables, and is also found naturally in the human body. Although it has very little taste of its own, when added to foods, it possesses an amazing capacity to act as a catalyst to bring out other flavors of the ingredients in the dish by stimulating taste buds and increasing saliva in the mouth.

Its use in Chinese recipes is optional, as some people reportedly react badly to it, causing an array of symptoms (dubbed Chinese Restaurant Syndrome) ranging from chest pains, asthma attacks, loss of balance, flushing, headache, numbness, dizziness, heart palpitations and severe thirst. However, there has not been enough scientific evidence to prove that MSG is the culprit behind this array of symptoms, rather than a psychophysiological response.

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