Let’s Talk Food: Updates on MSG, Manago Hotel and more

  • Courtesy photo Double-Chocolate Pudding

Ireceived an email from Danielle, a registered dietitian who works on behalf of Ajinomoto, the leading manufacturer of monosodium glutamate (MSG).

She states, “Although some people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions. In fact, whether you’re eating foods with added MSG or glutamate-rich foods, like tomatoes, our bodies process the glutamate in the same exact way. The glutamate in MSG is chemically indistinguishable from glutamate that is inherently present in food. When MSG is exposed to liquid, for example, in broth or saliva, the sodium separates from the glutamate molecules. Therefore, what the body is metabolizing is simply glutamate, regardless of the source. In addition, because MSG has less sodium than table salt, it can actually be used as a way to reduce sodium in home cooking and in packaged foods.”


On the other hand, I received an email from Rick Rosen of Honomu claiming my column “regarding monosodium glutamate is dangerous and inaccurate food-industry propaganda. I can speak from first-hand experience that MSG produces instant and violent headache, dizziness, eye irritation and other unpleasant effects. It’s not ‘all in your head’ as suggested. (and some not at all): A threat to public health? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938543/.”

The author’s conclusion is “that although MSG has proven its value as an enhancer of flavor, different studies have hinted as possible toxic effects related to this popular food additive. These toxic effects inclined CNS disorder, obesity, disruption in adipose tissue physiology, hepatic damage, CRS and reproductive malfunctions. These threats might have hitherto been unestimated. In the meantime, people keep using ever larger amounts of MSG unaware of the possible consequences. Further studies need to be undertaken in order to assess the connection between MSG and cardiovascular disorders, headache and hypertension in human models. MSG is a controversial food additive used in canned food, crackers, meat, salad dressing, frozen dinners and a myriad of other products. It is found in local supermarkets, restaurants and school cafeterias alike. While MSG probably has huge benefits to the food industry, the ubiquitous use of this food additive could have negative consequences for public health. If more substantive evidence of MSG toxicity would be provided, a total ban on the use of MSG as a flavor enhancer would not be unwise to consider.”

So you need to decide for yourself about MSG, with the two sides of the story to take into consideration.

Manago Hotel

I found this interesting bit of history in a 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine and wanted to share it.

“Claim to fame: Kinzo Manago left Japan in 1910 to seek his fortune in Canada, but gave away all his money during a voyage to pay off a friend’s gambling debts. After disembarking in Hawaii, he ended up opening this simple hotel and restaurant. Today, Manago, run by the third generation of the founding family. Is the last of the small, non-tourist hotels on the Big Island. Everyone says they want to see ‘the real Hawaii.’ This is it.

“What to know before you go: Manago’s restaurant still operates on plantation hours. You must be seated in the dining room by 7:30 p.m. for dinner.

”What to order: The remarkable pork chops, coated in breadcrumbs and fried until golden, and (when it’s available) the salad of a Hawaiian seaweed called ogo. Locals appreciate the butterfish, plelu and ahi that are often on the menu.

“The regulars then: Plantation families and adventurous travelers.

“Little-known fact: The pork chops, and only the pork chops, are cooked in a square cast-iron pan crafted in the 1920s by the now defunct Hilo Iron Works.”

The Manago Hotel is located on Mamalahoa Highway in Captain Cook. To contact the hotel and restaurant, call 323-2642 or visit Managohotel.com.

It is interesting that Manago Hotel is still in business and outlasted Gourmet magazine, which had its last publication a year later, in October 2009, after 70 years.

Food &Wine best recipe

In 2008, Food &Wine magazine put out “30 Best and Fast Recipes Ever.” The one recipe that caught my attention was a chocolate pudding from Richard Sax in 1987.

Double-Chocolate Pudding

Serves: 6

2 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lightly whipped cream, for serving

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of the milk with 1/4 cup sugar and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch with the unsweetened cocoa powder and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until blended.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk and whisk until smooth. Whisk this mixture into the hot milk in the saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly.

Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the pudding is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the whole egg with the egg yolks. Gradually whisk about 1 cup of the hot cocoa pudding into the eggs until thoroughly incorporated, then scrape the pudding back into the saucepan. Cook the pudding over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until it just comes to a boil, about 2 minutes.

Strain the pudding into a medium heat-proof bowl. Add the chopped chocolate, butter and vanilla and whisk until the chocolate and butter are melted and incorporated and the pudding is smooth, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the pudding to six 6-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until chilled.

If you are not in a hurry, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding in the bowl and refrigerate.

Serve with lightly whipped cream.


The chocolate pudding can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to four days.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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