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MSG Rice Pudding – as gross as it sounds

December 9, 2010

The bag I bought, although this brand, was labelled only in Chinese (and Japanese). The caption is hilarious, too. Photo credit to

No, this is not a dish I was served in a Chinese restaurant. It is a dish I cooked. Let me explain:

Since moving to China, I have taken up cooking, in part out of  necessity (no mom, no dining hall), and in part out of enjoyment. I’ve always liked cooking, and now it’d developed into quite the little hobby of mine. In fact, my main hobby at the moment, since I no longer have the many extracurricular distractions of my college life.

Anyway, during my first few weeks in this new city, I had been making quite a few Chinese dishes with out handy dandy new rice cooker. Our apartment came equipped with a stove with two gas burners, a refrigerator, pots and pans, and a small toaster oven. The rest was up to us, and the first thing I purchased was a rice cooker. You know, cause, China. Rice. It made sense.

One night, we had a lot of rice left over, and I thought – why not make rice pudding? No oven for baking, so rice pudding seemed like a good desert alternative. Although we had purchased said cooker, Rick and I had yet to stock our “pantry” (a metal shelving unit purchased at Ikea on the cheap) with things like sugar.

So I ran to the store, found the sugar section (white sugar is 白糖), and quickly browsed for the cheapest bag of the stuff. Found this Japanese brand, and it was by far the cheapest, so I grabbed it and checked out.

When I got home, I put the leftover cooked rice in a pot, added a bunch of whole milk (yum), let it simmer for awhile, and then started adding the sugar. At first, I could barely taste it, so I added a bunch more… still not sweet at all, weird, so I really laid it on. By then, the pudding started tasted really off, really strange, and I couldn’t place it. Had I burnt the milk or something? I asked Rick to come try some. Definitely all wrong.

Rick took one look at my bag of “sugar” and figured out what had messed up my “foolproof” recipe: MSG, of course, which had been right next to the sugar at the market. I was in a hurry, so I hadn’t looked closely enough to notice what I bought wasn’t sugar, 白糖, but MSG, 味精. Ew ew ew! It was really gross tasting, especially when you expected it to taste sweet.  Also, MSG + dairy = bad.

Well, needless to say, I threw out the disgusting rice pudding and was much more careful at the grocery store after that.

But the MSG thing is pretty hilarious, because not only is it widely available; Chinese cookbooks and online recipes often tell you to add it. There’s none of the MSG stigma of the US in China.  According to wikipedia, none of the allegations against MSG being detrimental to health have ever been proven, so I no longer worry about it at all. Ingesting lots of it that night when I made rice pudding didn’t hurt me, so, whatever.

Although I don’t yet use MSG in my own cooking at home, I’m a huge fan of Chicken powder, another Chinese cooking stable. Yes, it sounds and looks (and smells) kinda gross, but it makes my stir-fries and broths taste amazing.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2010 6:40 pm

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think MSG rice pudding sounds awesome.

  2. Michelle permalink
    January 5, 2011 9:47 am

    This sort of reminds me of the time you thought you could make frosting by just mixing all of the ingredients together in a bowl…not so good at the reading, are we?!

    I, too, do not understand why people say’s this is BAD for you, but alas!

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