MSG-Free (monosodium glutamate)

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One of the frustrations in learning a second language is knowing only ONE way to say things, and not being able to easily rephrase.

Background: I am allergic to MSG, and have found that it frequently occurs in (Americanized) Mexican food because it's in the sauce. We went to a local Mexican restaurant last night, and I asked the waiter this:

¿Cuáles selecciones no tienen glutamato monosódico?
Tengo alergias a glutamato monosódico.

This only got me "No entiendo" and "¿Qué es'," so I tried:

--Unas salsas tienen glutamato monosódico, no lo puedo comer.
--No sé.
--¿Sabe el cocinero?

None of this worked (and neither did English), so I would like to have any suggestions for alternative (clearer / better / just plain different) ways to ask the same thing. (In English I would say, "Which items are MSG-free'")

How would you say, "MSG is a flavor enhancer added to pre-made meats and sauces."?
Finally, what would be the most polite way to ask the waiter to ask the cook my question?

P.S. The waiter rephrased my "alergias" as "alergica," not sure why . . .

16422 views
updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by Natasha

13 Answers

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Since this has generated so many responses, let me just add this.

I've almost never seen "MSG" sold as a stand-alone in the US, although from this discussion it appears some restaurants must get it wholesale as "Sazón," or under other names. It occurs in trace amounts in salad dressings (doesn't bother me, but gives some people migraines), and in LARGE amounts in some cheap Chinese food and some bottled enchilada sauces.

Agreeing with Lazarus, the only trouble I've ever had with high-quality / authentic Chinese restaurants is with the dim sum (some of the items apparently come pre-made).

The suggestion to ask for salsa fresca is a great one; for whatever reason I didn't think of phrasing it that way.

Quentin, thanks for your concern that I not eat the whole bottle . . . yow!!! grin

Quentin said:

As a matter of practicality, why don't you just buy a small container for MSG and carry it with you when you go out to eat. If your language skills fail you or if you run into a waiter that doesn't know what product you are talking about you can show him the container and ask him to take it to the cook to see if he uses it. I'd give them an empty container or they will probably dump the contents into your meal thinking that you wanted it added to your food and you'll have the pleasant experience of waking up in the emergency room recovering from anaphylactic shock.

>

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by Natasha
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Thank you so much, everyone.

I've eaten at various Mexican restaurants in the past and been able to get my question answered without a problem (although it once involved the waitress actually bringing me the bottle of sauce so I could read the ingredients).

You guys are great. Every single response here is so helpful!!!

P.S. Heidita, I think our dictionary for alergias and alergicas (accent missing) needs to be fixed!

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by Natasha
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Glutamato sódico is a quicker way to say "glutamato monosódico", a derivate of glutamate. MSG is dissociated in liquids and saliva, producing sodium and an amino acid that occurs naturally in tomatoes, vegetables, milk, and also produced in the brain. Like any other substance (e.g. salt), in large quantities can be bad for health, but it is not intrinsically poisonous.

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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*¿Cuáles selecciones no tienen glutamato monosódico?
Tengo alergias a glutamato monosódico.
*

¿Qué comidas no tienen levadura/sazonamiento especial añadida/o? Soy alérgica a la levadura.

Eso de "selecciones" no se dice en España.

--Algunas salsas tienen glutamato monosódico, no lo puedo comer.
--No sé.
--¿Lo sabrá el cocinero'

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by 00494d19
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Tengo alergias a glutamato monosódico.

No puedes tener varias alergias al mismo producto. Eres alérgica a algo.

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by 00494d19
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lazarus1907 said:

The acronym wouldn't mean anything to anyone in Spain, but glutamato sódico will be understood by some. In any case, it is not very used, except in Chinese restaurants (Chinese don't seem to use it much in China, by the way).

I must admit I would have anwered the same as the waiter. MSG, never heard of it. And glutamato sódico either.

Me pregunto si es lo mismo que glutamato monosódico:

El glutamato monosódico no puede mejorar el gusto de ingredientes de calidad inferior ni se puede utilizar para conservar o mejorar el aspecto de los alimentos. La única razón por la que se utiliza este condimento es para potenciar el sabor y el aroma de la comida y acortar el tiempo de preparación.

¿Es lo mismo?

Si esa así, esto sería lo má intelligible:

(se conoce con el nombre de E621, proteína hidrolizada o) extracto de levadura.

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by 00494d19
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The acronym wouldn't mean anything to anyone in Spain, but glutamato sódico will be understood by some. In any case, it is not very used, except in Chinese restaurants (Chinese don't seem to use it much in China, by the way).

benito said:

if you ask to some body that is not acquaited with tecnical or medical used words always you are going to have the same answer... next time try this:: por favor traigame salsa que sea fresca, no puedo comer salsas y carne pre sasonadas soy alergico a esos sasonadores...

I don't know if such word has been recently borrowed in any Spanish speaking country, but although we have the verb sazonar (with Z), "sasonadas" it is an unnecessary copy from English seasoning, since we already have condimentos, aliños, and aderezos, with their respective verbs condimentar, aliñar and aderezar. "Sazonada" is used in literature to refer to the style of a sentence or text, and it is an adjective only.

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
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As a matter of practicality, why don't you just buy a small container for MSG and carry it with you when you go out to eat. If your language skills fail you or if you run into a waiter that doesn't know what product you are talking about you can show him the container and ask him to take it to the cook to see if he uses it. I'd give them an empty container or they will probably dump the contents into your meal thinking that you wanted it added to your food and you'll have the pleasant experience of waking up in the emergency room recovering from anaphylactic shock.

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by 0074b507
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if you ask to some body that is not acquaited with tecnical or medical used words always you are going to have the same answer... next time try this:: por favor traigame salsa que sea fresca, no puedo comer salsas y carne pre sasonadas soy alergico a esos sasonadores... and you are going to see what a big diference......

updated FEB 5, 2009
posted by benito
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Here is a forum where people with MSG allergies discuss restaurants, especially Mexican ones. It may be helpful to you, since it mentions Sazon, and waiters might be more familiar with that name.

<http://www.msgmyth.com/discus/messages/12/925.html'1218941350>

updated FEB 4, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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This could be a cultural difference, Natasha. Many Chinese restaurants use MSG, too, but there doesn't seem to be the public negativity toward MSG in China that we have here in the US. Of course, the owners and waiters at Chinese restaurants in the US usually know what it is, and can be asked about it, but MSG may just be off the radar of most Mexicans (as opposed to American-born Mexican-Americans). I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if this were the case.

If you do use the acronym while speaking Spanish, you might want to use GMS. "No MSG added" seems to be rendered as "Sin GMS añadido."

By the way, in Japanese MSG is called ajinomoto, which means "the source of flavor," and it is considered perfectly fine to use a lot of it.

updated FEB 4, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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It also could be that the waiter didn't know about MSG or that he meant he didn't know which foods contained MSG'? I can't imagine that but giving him the doubt it could be just lack of knowledge about MSG.

updated FEB 4, 2009
posted by 0044558c
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How about, "MSG es un ingrediente que se le agrega a las carnes antes de cocerlas y a las salsas. Soy alérgica. No puedo consumirlo. ¿Le puedes preguntar al cocinero'" You seemed to convey your point well enough to me though.

updated FEB 4, 2009
posted by LadyDi