Add MSG to Every Salad

Add MSG to Every Salad
Contributor: Claire Lower

Anyone serious about salads knows that one cannot rely on dressing alone to flavour your greens. No: The key to a good salad lies in treating each component with thoughtfulness and care, which requires seasoning your damn leaves. In my kitchen, this means seasoning them with MSG.

Monosodium glutamate adds umami — the rich, deep, savoury flavour our palates associate with soy sauce, cheese, nutritional yeast, and, depending on which country you reside in, Marmite or Vegemite. Glutamate can be found in tomatoes, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese (just to name a few), but it also comes in a little panda-shaped shaker; a few shakes from that thing will keep your mouth much more interested in that pile of plant parts you’ve assembled “for your health.”

Why do you think every sad, plastic-clad vegetable tray comes with a tub of ranch dressing? It’s because that white, pepper-flecked condiment contains enough MSG to make even limp celery sticks palatable.

By sprinkling MSG directly onto your greens, you get the benefits of ranch without the ranch. (Ranch is good, but it’s not the right fit for every salad.) These savoury little crystals enhance the flavour of everything they’re sprinkled on, meaning you will also need less dressing, less cheese, and fewer bacon bits. (I would still add the same amount of bacon bits and cheese, but it’s nice to not need them so desperately.)

It doesn’t take a lot of MSG to give your salad an umami boost. A couple of shakes is plenty for a side salad; three or four takes care of a big salad. I sprinkle it on once all the vegetables are in the bowl, give them a good toss, then add the non-vegetable components and, finally, a drizzle of dressing. There is not a salad it does not improve. Some might say “what about a fruit salad?” but much like a hard, crystal-flecked cheese (such as aged gouda or real Parmigiano-Reggiano), a little MSG can do wonderful things to an apple.

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