Do you know that besides the four basic taste (i.e sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), there’s another flavour called umami? A Japanese scientist managed to extract a substance called glutamate from kombu seaweed and discovered that its combination with salt creates a ‘pleasant savoury taste’. That is how MSG was created and slowly permeates supermarkets, restaurants, and eventually our home kitchen.
IS MSG BAD FOR US?
HOW TO MAKE FOOD TASTY WITHOUT MSG
I don’t go out of my way to avoid MSG (life is meaningless if we can’t enjoy dining out which will normally involve ingesting some MSG). However, I don’t enhance my cooking with it. Instead, I use a lot of herbs, umami-rich ingredients, and make slow-boiled stock (Homemade Vegetable Broth) to make my food taste good.
While it might be enough for me (and possibility our healthier ancestors), I realise that natural flavouring sometimes is not enough to please the tastebuds of family and friends; they expect food to taste as flavourful as char koay teow or food in McDonalds that they are so used to eat.
That led me to the discovery of powdered dried shrimps which I fondly call my ‘homemade MSG’. A spoonful of this in stir-fry vegetables and soup gives a pleasantly savoury flavour. I fondly call this my ‘homemade MSG’.
- Bottle/ container
Dried Shrimp Powder
- 250 g Dried shrimps (udang kering)
- Step 1 RINSE AND DRY SHRIMPS: Rinse dried shrimps. Scatter shrimps on a large tray and air-dry it.
- Step 2 BLEND: Put dried shrimps in a blender and process until it turns into powder.
- Step 3 STORE & LABEL: Transfer dried shrimps into a container and label it.
Rinse 250 g dried shrimps. Air-dry. Blend into powder. Transfer into a container. Freeze.
STEP 1: RINSE AND DRY SHRIMPS
Rinse dried shrimps. Scatter shrimps on a large tray and air-dry it.
STEP 2: BLEND
Put dried shrimps in a blender and process until it turns into powder.
STEP 3: STORE & LABEL:
Transfer dried shrimps into a container and label it.
- Ikan Bilis Powder. If you are allergic to shrimps, try making ikan bilis (anchovies) powder instead.
- Make sure dried shrimp is completely dry. You want to make sure it is completely dry as water can harbour bacteria and causes it to deteriorate. It took about 6 hours to completely dry the shrimps. Of course, this changes according to humidity and temperature.
- Keep it in the freezer. It is best to keep the dried shrimp powder in the freezer. If kept properly, it should last indefinitely. It’s still in powder form when frozen. I could just scoop for stir-frying vegetables and curries.
- 250 g makes 3 small bottles. A quarter kilo of dried shrimps produce three small bottles of dried shrimp powder.
- Toast it and pound for crunchy texture My friend, Murni, said “I usually put my udang kering in the oven for about 15 mins on 150 degrees C after washing and air drying. Once it’s toasted, I’ll roughly pound it because I like the crunchy texture.”
How do you enhance the taste of your food?