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What do MSG, Wine and Yogurt have in Common? How is MSG Made?

By November 17, 2021November 18th, 2021MSG
MSG Culinary Catcher

Start off today with a quick quiz. And then turn the old “Cootie Catcher” into a “Culinary Catcher”!

Test your culinary acumen and identify the one food that does not belong on this list:

Sourdough bread
Lemon juice

If you picked lemon juice, you are correct. All the other foods have been developed and prepared through fermentation. A surprising appearance on this list is that of MSG. A well-known flavor enhancer, MSG indeed is also made through fermentation, just as the other ingredients on the list.

MSG Produced through Fermentation

Glutamate is found in abundance in the human body, as well as in protein-rich foods such as aged cheeses, mushrooms or beef, and is responsible for the savory tastes and depth of flavor called umami. In 1908, a professor named Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract and crystallize glutamate from kelp or seaweed broth. The resulting MSG or monosodium glutamate is prized for its taste enhancing properties.

Today, MSG is produced through fermentation, rather than extraction and crystallization from seaweed. Fermentation products such as beer, wine, vinegar result from the action of yeasts, bacteria and other microorganisms on fermentable sugars, and growing in the absence of air.

For MSG, fermentation starts with starch derived from cassava, corn or rice; or molasses from sugar beets or sugar cane. From the starch or molasses, sugar is extracted which serves as the nutrient source for the bacteria during the fermentation process. Glutamate produced as a result of the fermentation, is separated out, purified and crystalized. The dried and packaged white crystals are MSG, ready to provide umami flavor and enhance the taste of your food.

And here is the next quiz to test your culinary skills. What food products can be produced through fermentation of the ingredients on the list?

  1. Milk  when fermented becomes Buttermilk
  2. Malt when fermented becomes ?
  3. Grapes…
  4. Cabbage…
  5. Apple juice…
  6. Soy beans…
  7. Coffee beans…
  8. Cucumbers…
  9. Grain alcohol…
  10. Tofu…
  11. Maize…
  12. Cocoa…
  13. Heavy cream…
  14. Radishes…
  15. Anchovies…


  1. Buttermilk 2. Beer 3. Wine 4. Sauerkraut 5. Cider 6. Tempeh 7. Cultured coffee 8. Pickles 9. White vinegar 10. Fermented bean curd 11. Chicha (Corn beer) 12. Chocolate 13. Crème fraîche 14. Kimchee 15. Worcestershire sauce

MSG culinary catcherCulinary Catcher

And finally, the last activity. Do you remember the “Cootie Catcher” from childhood? For our purposes, this is the “Culinary Catcher.” Challenge yourself to see how much you know about MSG! (Note: Visitors to will probably be able to answer all the questions!)

Download the “Culinary Catcher” here.

MSG quizStep One: Fold all four corners to the center of the page so food illustrations meet in the middle meet in the middle.
It should look like this:



MSG quizStep Two: Flip the folded paper over so the folded sides are face down. Fold each corner again to meet in the center.
It should look like this:



MSG quizStep Three: Flip back over. It should look like this with a food illustration on each face:


Step Four: Fold the square in half to make a rectangle.

Step Five: With both hands, insert your thumbs and pointing fingers inside the four pockets.

MSG quizStep Six: Pinch pointer and thumb together and push them towards the center and bringing the points together in the middle. It should look like this:


To play: Move the flaps in and out and side to side while spelling out name of the other player (or yourself), stopping on the last letter of the name. Ask the player to pick out one of the four numbers. Ask the player the question associated with that number. Have the player guess the answer. Open up flap to reveal the answer. Keep playing and add up the points to determine the winner!


Photo credit: “Cootie Catcher” aka “Culinary Catcher” image courtesy of Flickr user Gary Barker

Mary Lee Chin is a registered dietitian specializing in health communications. Committed to providing the public with sound nutrition information, she is regularly consulted by local and national media on nutrition trends and significant health and food issues. Her company, Nutrition Edge Communications, specializes in translating peer-reviewed research into realistic and practical recommendations, and countering myths and misinformation. Mary Lee was recently awarded Outstanding Dietitian of the Year by the Colorado Dietetic Association. Read more about her background on the About page. Note: MSGdish bloggers are compensated for their time in writing for MSGdish, but their statements and opinions are their own. They have pledged to blog with integrity, asserting that the trust of their readers and their peers is vitally important to them.

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