Food Additives in Japanese Food: Secrets Behind the UMAMI Flavor

It’s hard to link the word “junk” to the image of minimal and beautiful Japanese food, but most of the Japanese food could be serious junk to the people who are allergic to food additives.

It surprises many people whenever I advise them to watch out what they eat when they visit Japan. Japan is very behind of food additive allergy awareness in two ways. The government doesn’t restrict food additives strict enough, citizens had already been used to a large amount of food additives in their diet, meaning that they don’t even doubt.

You may have been cautious about Chinese food if you are allergic to MSG (the most known food additives), but have you about Japanese food?

Believe it or not, the Japanese had created MSG to produce a cost-effective “Umami” flavor (a part of Dashi) which is essential to Japanese cooking. And it spread the world, especially among Asian countries. Some southeastern Asian countries still call MSG “Ajinomoto”, the original name of the product and the company name.

However, in Japan, MSG is listed/written as “Amino-Acid etc.”. I doubt how many people are aware of it as MSG. It’s not easy to find Japanese condiments or anything packaged without the Amino-Acid etc.

MSG is just one example I picked. There are many other creative food additives exist in everything and I feel very uncomfortable and need to be afraid of allergic reaction strike my children and myself. Unfortunately, we are always treated crazy picky bunch in Japan.

So, now you know that all Umami/Dashi flavor is MSG unless the restaurant or the person cooks all from scratch. What about other factory-made condiments like Miso, Soy Sauce, Mirin, Tonkatsu Sauce, Takoyaki Sauce, Japanese Mayonnaise, Wasabi, Tempra dipping sauce, Salad dressing, Udon soup, Ramen soup, Teriyaki sauce… Chances are, you guessed it. That’s why I have this website to share my knowledge.

If you have serious allergic reactions, keep in mind that you may not be able to avoid food additives in Japanese food. Even if you ask restaurants, they are probably not aware that Amino-Acid etc. is MSG.

If you are interested in cooking Japanese food at home, check COOKING BASICS category, how to select Japanese condiments, and how to make Japanese Dashi from scratch.

Published by kiwami

Sustainable Lifestyle Specialist /Interior Designer (U.S. certified) /Author of Picture Books