How to avoid MSG in China?

Aug 6th, 2015, 12:47 AM
  #1  
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How to avoid MSG in China?

I'll be in China coming September - 8 days on an organised trek of the great wall+ privete [not organised] 3 days beijing, 2 days Xi'an and 2 days Chengdu. First time in China. - and I'm allergic to MSG; this is my biggest worry as the trip approaches - how to avoid MSG in my food.
Though I anoounced the organising company of my MSG allergy i doubt that i could trust the small local places where we'll eat that their food will be MSG-free.
I would appreciate advice on 2 topics: 1. Breakfast products in China [honey.. bread...milk products like white-cheese] - might they also contain MSG? 2. Do you know of any restuarants in Beijing-Xi'an-Chengdu that are 'safe' in this respect?

Will appreciate any advice!
Irit
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Aug 6th, 2015, 06:32 AM
  #2  
 
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There are a number of websites that allow you to print out allergy cards in many languages telling what you cannot eat. I'd advise you to print out one.

Bread and milk products are very unlikely to contain msg, but soups and sauces are almost guaranteed to contain msg. I agree, I think this will be difficult in small villages. I expect they won't be sure what to serve you. Anything pre-prepared will have msg. You best bets are freshly prepared foods. Educate yourself about how msg is used in Chinese foods.

In large cities, you are safest at Western chain hotels like the Sheraton, Hyatt, etc. They will still need to see your "no msg" card, but they are more likely to know what to do about it.
Kathie is offline  
Aug 6th, 2015, 09:08 PM
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Thank you!
I will take an allergy-card wiht me [and not fully trust it anyway... I think that the MSG is 'in' in basic products that the cook use, without his full awaremess; especially so in China].
Educate myself about how MSG is used in chineese food - i wonder how I do that.
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Aug 6th, 2015, 10:01 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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"Educate myself about how MSG is used in chineese food - i wonder how I do that."

Well, you could try google. Or consult good guidebooks at your local library. Or use the search box of this forum. Here are a couple of threads that might be useful:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...-hong-kong.cfm
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...ll-and-msg.cfm

Good luck!
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Aug 7th, 2015, 12:06 AM
  #5  
 
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The small food vendors, noodles and wok friers, toss a teaspoon of salt, MSG, soy, etc to pot as cooked. It's totally common, therefore, hard to remember and omit.
Here is a pinyin phrase which says 'don't put any msg'. But in China you gotta TALK REAL LOUD, or they won't hear you.

Bu yao fang wei jing. (wei=way) all others easy.

But also good to get the written characters.
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Aug 7th, 2015, 02:29 AM
  #6  
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thank you, kja and jobin. improving my basic chinese skills.[i can recognise the chinese MSG - 味精 - in the sentence given in one of the links 我不能吃有味精和鸡精的菜].

and I am going to write down and memorise Bu yao fang wei jing.
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Aug 7th, 2015, 12:48 PM
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I hate to be the voice of doom but I don't believe asking & advising of your allergy is going to be much help if you really must avoid MSG completely. As most know regarding business practices in China, you'll often be told what you want to hear and it may or may not bear any resemblance to the truth.

You may be able to convince a cook to not add additional MSG but they very well may be using sauces that are cooked in advance and with it already added.

If I were you, I'd give a great deal of thought to the consequences of getting a dose of the stuff. While doing your best to avoid it, you may get little help from those preparing your food, simply not understanding how much it matters. It may turn out that China is simply not a safe place for you to eat anything that's cooked out of your sight. It will depend largely on the severity of the allergy and whether you can withstand less than 100% avoidance.
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Aug 7th, 2015, 04:14 PM
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MmePerdu is correct. You cannot go and expect them to be concerned about your food allergies. Legal liability doesn't exist there for these kinds of things. In the US, it's a big deal because of the potential of being sued. NOT the case elsewhere. You eat and get sick...you're problem.

You know the severity of your allergy the best and need to decide what the risk is.
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Aug 8th, 2015, 03:34 AM
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Thanks, Mmepedu and Jaya. Your words echoes a clear voice in my mind. How severe is my allergy? I never got to a hospital, but even a small amout of msg nakes me feel bad instantly - i stop eating, vomit [voluntarily], drink lots of water, sometimes takes an anti-elergy pill.. and still feel bad al least for a few hours.
I had this reaction in - so i thought - unprobable places, like a pizza couner in San-francisco.. but lately i've learned that italian food often contains MSG.

This is not a way to make a trek! that's why i intend to bring with me my food [dry things - like kabanos.. tuna cans.. dried fruits, nuts ect.. energy-bars. I also plan to engoy peel-able fruits like bananas or pomelo.]

My question to the forum was specifically about breakfast; is it probable to find MSG in milk-products like white-cheese, or in their bread [and cakes]?
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Aug 8th, 2015, 07:09 AM
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I'm not sure who told you that Italian food often contains msg, but it is not true. Did you ask the place whether they used msg in their food? It would be very unusual, but not impossible.

MSG is used to enhance the unami flavor in foods. Read about unami and you'll have a better idea of where msg might be used. There are foods that have naturally-occuring compounds that are related to msg. So if you were very sensitive to this whole class of compounds, it might be possible for you to have a reaction to these other foods. (mushrooms, for instance)

You might want to know before you go exactly what you are reacting to.

As I said above, msg is not normally used in breads and cakes, or in cheeses.
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Aug 8th, 2015, 11:36 AM
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Well, no body 'told me' about MSG added to italian-food; i read about it in one of the articles i ran into lately - i'm reading a lot about this subject these days...
Anyway, it happened to me not only in that pizza couner in San-francisco [years ago] but also last november in a pizzeria in Naples Italy.

I knnow exactly what i'm alergic to - MSG that is added to food. I have no problem neither with mushrooms.. nor soya-souce.. tomatoes?.. i use all these freely at home.
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Aug 8th, 2015, 12:17 PM
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i will read about the umami taste, Kathie, to find where the MSG is more likely to appear, thank you for this idea. [but i will still be suspicious; in chineese food it can be found anywhere...]
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Aug 8th, 2015, 12:37 PM
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Added MSG is usually only found in cuisines such as Chinese, Japanese, some SE Asian foods, etc. But it is also found in all sorts of "fast foods." I did some research on your Italian food question and what I found is that some ingredients such as parmesan cheese have naturally occurring glutamates. But I found nothing that indicated that msg is added to Italian foods.

I agree, you should be very cautious in China.
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Aug 8th, 2015, 12:57 PM
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Given the apparent severity of the reactions, it makes me wonder why China, or maybe Asia in general, is where the OP wants to go. Dodging illness with no real way to know where it might occur is not my idea of fun. With so many destination possibilities in the world, why go to the place most likely to make you sick?
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Aug 11th, 2015, 09:19 AM
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Kathie, i'll try to find that article where i first read about it, and write it dowm here if i find it. Yes, my privete experience in two different pizza-stops [in Frisco and Naples] is far from a 'general fact'. [By the way, in my country i often enjoy pizza, and never suffered a reaction. So far. Tfu tfu tfu...]

Answering MmePerdu almost 'bolt' question: I don't read anything or any book... i wouldn't go to any film... ect. Life is limited and so we always have to choose. So it's not so much of 'looking where to go' or 'looking were to pass a week or two'. This trek of the chineese wall realy interests and atracts me. Once i've decided that i'll bring my food with me from home, enjoy peel-able fruits, and take other precautions - it seems more safe to follow this attraction.

Discussibg the subject here, with all of you who volunteered tips and ideas, is great!. I thank you all so much.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 09:42 AM
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and a counter-question to MmePerduuppose you are driving a car at night, when the raods are almost empty, and you approaches a jnction with trafic-lights. Which of the possible lights [red-orange-green] will cause you to act more or less securely at the junction? Which of the lights is more 'potent' to create an accident at the junction?
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Aug 11th, 2015, 10:17 AM
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Since I have no idea what "almost 'bolt'" means I have no reason to feel "almost" blown off. I believe my question was a pertinent one, and with addition of the traffic light, I'm left to conclude that the allergy isn't life-threatening and possibly a bit of drama or faulty logic, given the pizza factoids.
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Oct 2nd, 2015, 11:31 PM
  #18  
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Hi everybody.

It's about a week that i'm back home from my 17 days Chineese excursion - during which i was well-fed and felt well, no unexpected meetimgs with MSG in my food.
I should thank you all for the advice and ideas, which i took seriously, and prepared myself accordingly.

Part of my tour was an organised tour [with Exodus, 8 days trek of the chineese wall] and our tour-leader, the fantastic Kevin, took my allergy seriously and managed to provide for me 3 cooked meals every day, steamed specially for me! without any dangerous ingredients. On the other days, when i was on my own in Beijing Xi'an and Chengdu, i did well with Yogurt and fruits i bought in the market. Breakfassts were the easiest in any kind of hotel - i even learned to enjoy rice-porridge, and morning-cakes.
I did bring with me some dry food from home - but hardly needed it.

this forum, and you guys, were helpul. Thanks!

Irit
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Oct 2nd, 2015, 11:36 PM
  #19  
kja
 
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Thanks for reporting back, Irit -- I'm glad you found a way to manage!
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Oct 3rd, 2015, 07:36 AM
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I'm glad it worked out for you!
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