It is everywhere. In packets at seven eleven, in cups and dispensers at restaurants, in all the food, in all the soup broths, – just everywhere.
At first I thought it was sugar, as it certainly didn’t taste like salt! It wasn’t sweet either, but I thought maybe it was a very weak, highly processed sugar, or some bland spice. I couldn’t figure it out because my mind did not want to accept the horibble truth.
It was our first day in Thailand, we’d just gotten off the train from the airport to the downtown and were looking for something to eat. We’d found a noodle place outside a seven eleven and decided the prices looked good and the patrons there seemed to be enjoying their good-sized portions of food. We each ordered a different, unpronounceable dish off the menu and sat down to wait for our food.
Whilst waiting I took note of all the different sauces and spices one could add to their dish. There was dry powdered red chili, a clear liquid with green chilis, soy sauce, what looked like fish sauce and a white crystal-like substance in a cup which I couldn’t identify.
I tasted it and so did Mustafa but we were still clueless as to what it was. I looked around at the other people eating their food and saw one guy putting great heaping tablespoonfuls of the stuff into his noodles. He clearly loved it. Whatever it was.
Fast forward to nearly three and a half weeks later. I had, by this time, just started taking the white crystal stuff at every restaurant for granted. It was night time, around 7pm. We had just eaten dinner with our new classmates and had decided to grab a few things from seven eleven for breakfast. We were looking for salt and I saw a packet on one of the shelves but neither Mustafa nor I could determine if it was salt or that mystery substance. So we asked one of the helpful staff. It wasn’t salt.
It was MSG. Monosodium glutamate. The entire country uses it in almost every dish. Not only is it already in the food but it’s put as a flavor additive on the table for you, I’d you think your food isn’t tasty enough you can simply trick your brain by adding more msg.