Does eating kung pao chicken, egg fried rice or chow mein make you feel a strange numbness in your neck, dizzy or give you an unexplainable headache?
If you answered yes, you could be among the many people who believe the idea of what many call, including the Merriam-Webster dictionary, 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.'
Chef Eddie Huang is out to correct what he has called racism with a new campaign called #RedefineCRS. Huang wants Merriam-Webster to change the term "Chinese restaurant syndrome" in the dictionary. The bizarre term is currently defined as:
"A group of symptoms (such as numbness of the neck, arms, and back with headache, dizziness, and palpitations) that is held to affect susceptible persons eating food and especially Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate"
The serious foodies knows this is an age old story. The myths in relation to MSG, monosodium glutamate, have been consistently debunked, and MSG has been on the Food and Drug Administration's list of foods that are "generally regarded as safe" for a long time. It's a naturally occuring amimo acid that's found in our bodies and foods such as tomatoes, parmesan, mushrooms - MSG is what gives many dishes the sought after umami profile many chefs are obsessed with.
Huang, in his interview with NBC News, said: “I think that the change in people’s perceptions and their ‘open-mindedness’ towards Chinese food is only happening when it’s packaged and presented to Americans in a way that they like.” The chef wants the term changed and it's hard to argue with his reasoning, it's safe to say that a definition in such a prestigious dictionary adds to the stereotype about Chinese food causing sickness.
Huang is not alone in his fight, David Chang has spoken out many times on the topic, even doing an MSG challenge on his popular Netflix show Ugly Delicious. When asked about the effects of eating Chinese takeout, participants on the show spoke of vague symptoms such as “a dull headache thing,” or a “numbness in the jaw” only "to be shocked" to find out they'd been eating MSG throughout the whole interview.
In response to Huang's campaign, Emily Brewster, senior editor at Merriam-Webster, told NBC they will “be reviewing this particular entry and will revise it according to the evidence of the term in use.”