Over a year ago I was in Chicago, listening to Chef Chris Keotke talk about umami and its culinary importance as one of our five basic tastes.
Chef Chris explained that monosodium glutamate (MSG, aka “umami seasoning”) is the purest form of umami and that MSG, which is made by fermenting foods such as sugar cane or corn, can be used to enhance the rich, savory, umami flavor of foods. As his final cooking demonstration, he shared a simple (but very tasty) scrambled egg dish in which he had replaced 1/3 of the salt with MSG. The eggs were delicious even though they had far less salt on them than I would have normally used.
As fate would have it, a few days later, my husband informed me that the results of his annual physical were in and the doctor had “strongly suggested” he reduce his sodium intake (along with making other dietary and behavioral changes) to help lower his blood pressure. Hmmm. Are you thinking what I was thinking?
As a loving wife and my husband’s number one fan, I wanted to help. So, yes, I went there. I did it. I dumped out the contents of our salt shaker and instead filled it with 2 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon MSG (mixed well). I knew it was going to take more than just reducing salt in the salt shaker to lower his blood pressure, but every little bit would help!
I also reduced the added salt in my cooking. Predictably, he complained that our meals lacked the same flavor and he reached for the salt shaker at the table. I just smiled as he sprinkled his food with his normal amount of “salt” from the table shaker.
My Salt/MSG Mixture Reduces Sodium
It has been more than a year since I replaced the salt in our salt shaker with a salt/MSG mixture*. My husband has never noticed a difference, and he finds the food upon which he sprinkles the secret salt mixture just as tasty as before – although it is lower sodium. There have been close calls – once he walked in when I was mixing the contents of the salt shaker, but he never asked why.
Who ever said that “salty food” had to be high in sodium?! Replacing some of the salt in our salt shaker with MSG has been an effective way to help my husband reduce his salt intake, while maintaining the good taste that makes food so enjoyable.
Since conducting my experiment of one, I’ve read articles and blogs that support the use of umami flavor enhancers such as MSG as a useful strategy to reduce sodium in food.
The only question now is… should I tell him?
*My table salt shaker mix:
In small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon MSG. Mix thoroughly and fill table shaker.
* * * *
For Further Reading…
Salt: Break Up to Make Up
Ways to reduce the amount of sodium in what we eat and applying cooking techniques and flavorful ingredients to enhance flavors of food while using less or no salt.