Thursday, May 28, 2015

The curious case of huicheng

‘Tesma alikati huiching halnu parcha’ accompanies most recipes in these parts. Wai-Wai, our state snack [sorry Maggi], exemplifies our addiction to this white crystalline condiment. We know that our favourite snack is loaded with huicheng and have been led to believe that eating too much of huicheng will ultimately turn our bones to powder. Whether that is an urban legend or the truth, no one knows for sure, but then no cases of bones turning to powder have been reported either. And that has how matters have been, but Huicheng is back in the news and so I begin an earnest attempt to unravel this mystery.
 ‘Hui-ching’ or ‘Whee-ching’ or ‘Hwee-ching’ or simply ‘Hoo-ching’ - are the different variations of Huicheng, which turns out to be a Chinese company that manufactures Monosodium Glutamate. The name probably derives from Huicheng district of Huizhou City, Guangdong Province, China where the company is located. We, here in Sikkim hardly refer to Monosodium Glutamate as Monosodium Glutamate or MSG or even Ajinomoto. For us, it is huicheng all the way. It is perhaps also why we are not as intimidated as the rest of the world is. Huicheng, after all, sounds less lethal than MSG, don’t you think?
Anyway, Google MSG and you will get links to anti-MSG and pro-MSG sites along with some that cannot make up their minds. Of course, you will also bump into The Messenger on IMDB where Guru Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan plays MSG, the messenger of god. Move on, this is not the MSG we are talking about. So there is this MSG Truth site which advocates against the use of MSG and there is the MSG Facts site that tells you all the good things about MSG [like we didn’t know already!]. Now, ‘truth’ is defined as ‘real facts’ about something and ‘fact’ is defined as something that ‘truly exists’ according to the Merriam Webster dictionary [yeah, I had to look up the dictionary for this, shoot me already!].
Conclusion: MSG is bad but it’s good as well.

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