It’s extremely difficult to go MSG-free in Thailand. In fact, it is nearly impossible to do so since everything – starting from Som Tum to Tom Yum Goong — includes MSG (monosodium glutamate) as one of the main ingredients that add that umami flavour as well as enhances the taste of any meat you’re using. And if you are anything like us — living in a food-focused community — you would know the debate of the additive’s usage in food is all the rage at the moment.
Really the debate lies somewhere between the two extremes; MSG is either one hundred per cent safe or a complete breakneck neurotoxin, considering it is merely a product of sodium and glutamate, in other words, a sodium salt. Depending on whom you ask, some believe the salt-like powder is harmless in moderate amounts of consumption. Some believe it’s even hazardous to just look at. Recognised as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), MSG will cause you no harm as long as you’re not wolfing it down in megadoses during one sitting. Unless you are someone who is extremely reactive to MSG, then, by all means, you need to avoid the crystalline powder.
But since the food additive is often found in processed and low-quality fare and many of us are looking for a way to lower our MSG consumption, we’ve curated a list of Bangkok eateries where MSG is taken out off the menu completely. From modern Thai cuisine to veggie-centric Indian fare, scroll down to see and pick your favourites for your next lunch munch-down or nighttime dinner.
Featured and hero image credit: Unsplash/Dan Gold
Charm Korean BBQ
Korean cuisine is very much a stateside phenomenon happening here in Bangkok. And really, the Korean food-fever is simply a side effect of this all-things-Korea obsession. Hot on the city’s heels this month is the newly opened Charm, an authentic and attractive Korean-style barbecue situated at the Novotel Bangkok on Sukhumvit 20. The menu here focuses solely on grade-A ingredients with MSG being removed from the entire menu completely, including their signature sauce. Expect some of the most beautiful selections of beef and pork cuts such as deeply marbled wagyu and sirloin served alongside MSG-free spicy sauce and pickled vegetables.
Charm, 19/9, Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit, Soi Sukhumvit 20, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, +6680 008 8473
Na Aroon Restaurant
With its natural sun-lit space and vibrant interior design, Na Aroon restaurant nestled behind AriyasomVilla in Sukhumvit soi 1 is a plant-based outlet, boasting a menu of Thai and western dishes made only from pristine ingredients. Although they are earnestly following the restaurant’s philosophy of “healthy, tasty, organic and mainly vegetarian food”, the venue does offer fresh fish and seafood to diners as well. Menu highlights include Tofu satay (THB 155++), Panang pla (THB THB 950++), Mushroom larb (THB 155++). And for dessert? Opt for the steamed jasmine rice coloured with An Chun flower (THB 50++) or the luscious Vanilla apple crumble (THB 220++). Each dish is umami-packed, solely from the use of natural flavourful ingredients.
Na Aroon Restaurant, AriyasomVilla, 65 Sukhumvit Soi 1, Bangkok, +662 253 8800
Bringing you a wide range of vegetarian dishes from all over India — with some from International vegetarian cuisine — Saras is truly a haven for veggie buffs and vegan-wannabe carnivores. Though the menu veers toward Indian fare, diners can expect to tuck into veggie-centric Chinese and Thai dishes. The menu is also divided into many categories, so guests have choices to choose between a la carte or set meals and quick bites or sweets n’ snacks. Saras make fantastic chaats (Indian savoury hors-d’oeuvre) and also all sorts of tandoori meat. Labelling themselves as vegetarian masters, you know you’ll get quality food with no MSG. Conveniently, you can now enjoy Saras in two locations — Sukhumvit soi 20 and Pratunam (soi Baiyok 1).
Saras, Sukhumvit Soi 20, Bangkok, +662 401 8484
Showcasing modern Thai vegetarian cuisine, Khun Churn is a restaurant branched out from its first Chiang Mai flagship that is now one of Bangkok’s few outlets that truly focuses on vegetarian meals. Salad lovers could go for MSG-free Som Tum Thai (THB 120) or Nam Tok Hed (THB 120), which is an assortment of mushrooms with lime juice, dried chilli, spring onion, and a sprinkling of mint. Those who are fans of deep-fried delights, definitely go for the Merry mushroom (THB 145), which is composed of three types of golden crisp tempura mushrooms.
Khun Churn, Nusasiri, Sukhumvit 42, Bangkok, +662 713 6599
Situated within Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit, Basil is showcasing Thailand’s four types of regional cuisine that are completely free of MSG. Tuck into their signature dishes like Chicken mussaman (THB 490), Lamb phad krapraow (THB 850), and Pla hoy shell (THB 650), which is seared scallops showered in spicy green mango salad, chilli jam and lemongrass. Boasting a fine-dining atmosphere, guests can indulge in the dazzling surroundings as well as in delectable fare that will not leave you thirsty, since the artificial flavours and ingredients are cut out from the menu entirely.
Basil, Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, +662 649 8366