My friends at Healthy Living Market will bend over backwards to satisfy their customers so when I asked them to stock Kewpie Mayo they said, of course! But week after week it did not show up. Then I looked it up and discovered… Kewpie contains MSG! Surely a no-no for a “natural foods” store. So it was off to Amazon to get my own, and here it is.
What’s different about Kewpie? The MSG gives it a salty unami flavor that makes you want to lick it off your finger after you squeeze out a taste. There are also added flavor notes from the rice vinegar (vs lemon juice or a blander vinegar in a stateside mayo) and the use of egg yolks vs. whole eggs. Overall it’s got a lot going on, vs standard mayo which I think of as a neutral eggy lubricant.
Many of the Japanese American families I have known actually do have a squeeze bottle of Kewpie in the refrigerator and they use it to make those mayo-y salads (peas, mixed vegetables, potato etc) typical of the cuisine. They also use it like regular mayo to a degree but it’s more expensive. You may also have encountered kewpie on bahn mi, though now that I have some I’m not so sure–the major flavor note of that mayo is sweetness, and kewpie is something else.
So far I’ve tried it as the saucing on a steak teriyaki sub–perfect. And even squeezed some onto on a salad (the tube has a tip which makes the ribbons come out in a fancy pattern) which, with some good balsamic, made a decent creamy dressing. Fancy sushi rolls are in the offing, I can tell.
And about that MSG… no it hasn’t killed me yet nor caused “MSG headache” or “MSG fainting” and I don’t expect it to. I don’t doubt that there are people who are sensitive to it but, like with gluten sensitivity, the actual number of people affected are far smaller than those who think they are sensitive. It’s made from seaweed after all… and what’s more natural than that?