Mysterious White Powders: Artificial Chicken Flavour

Mysterious White Powders: Artificial Chicken Flavour

I’ve been thinking about writing several posts about mysterious white powders (and offwhite powders as well), such as citric acid, baking soda, kansui, and nutritional yeast, which I will do so over the next few weeks. For now I’m going to start things off with everybody’s favourite…. ARTIFICIAL CHICKEN FLAVOUR!


“Artificial Chicken Flavouring”


Here is a picture of a chicken timer since its quite boring to look at a picture of white seasoning powder. A couple years ago I was taking apart a small chicken timer to send to George and I had just turned away for a moment when Kent happened to wander over and touched a spring inside the chicken. The result was that said chicken timer suddenly exploded. Oh chickens. So mysterious.

The other day we decided that we would try to “recreate a powdered Chicken seasoning”. Our motivations for this were perhaps quite different: George being vegetarian perhaps wanted to find an vegetarian analogue of a seasoning that was usually paired with chicken – and he went out and got some “Jerk Chicken Seasoning” that was conveniently vegetarian. But the problem is that “Jerk Chicken Seasoning” is not really chicken seasoning. It happens to be a seasoning which is complementary with chicken, and perhaps is so very often eaten together with chicken that it has become synonymous with chicken. However, that still does not make it truly chicken flavoured. IT IS NOT EVEN CHICKEN IN FLAVOUR.

I would like to do is to reverse engineer INSTANT NOODLE CHICKEN SEASONING. What is the essence of a chicken flavour? Now at the time of writing, I don’t think I’m even close to cracking it yet, but I want to find out the secret recipe for the seasoning packets in those bewitchingly addictive Mamee Noodle snacks. And I want to know the secret recipe behind the seasoning packet for the export-only Koka Stir Fried Noodles, which are very much unlike that of the emphatically health-conscious no-MSG recipes/formulations used for Koka’s local markets in Singapore. The UK export version of the Singapore produced Koka noodles look different from the packaging in the Singapore and also all contain MSG. How do I recreate this “artificial chicken flavouring”? And perhaps more to the point: is “ARTIFICIAL CHICKEN FLAVOURING” already a well-known or patented formula within the food technology industry….?

Let us look a little more closely at the ingredients for both seasonins which are so bewitchingly addictive:

MAMEE CHICKEN NOODLE SNACK (FLAVOUR PACK): Salt, Contains Permitted Flavouring Substances (contains gluten,soybeans), Contains Monosodium Glutamate (E621), Disodium-Guanylate(E627) and Disodium-Inosinate (E631) As Permitted Flavour Enhancers, Spices, Sugar. Contains Permitted Food Additives of Plant, Animal (Chicken) and Synthetic Origin.

: salt, sugar, artificial chicken flavouring [contains sesame seeds], pepper, msg, garlic powder, soya bean extract, dehydrated veg & spices.

Let’s break it down a little:

Monosodium Glutamate (E621) – the sodium salt of glutamic acid (E620). gives foods an umami taste and enhance flavours. Because of its enhancing properties, it is great because it reduces the total amount of salt needed in order to make the food tasty to us. Commercially it is produced through the bacterial fermentation of molasses; glutamates are present in all proteins and can be found in many natural foods.

For starters I think MSG is an amazing invention! It is for me up there alongside the invention of instant noodles! It has been scientifically proven that glutamates (commercially synthesised or naturally occuring) have no particular adverse effect on the overwhelming majority of people. I personally enjoy food with MSG in it and all of the other naturally occurring glutamates. I usually assume that anyone or any website which denounces MSG has failed to do a basic fact check and can be dismissed as a quack (beware, for the world and internet is full of uninformed loons!)

Disodium guanylate (E627)
– the sodium salt of guanylic acid (E626), guanylates enhance other flavours but do not add any particular umami tastes. It comes from a part of RNA in cells of living organisms. Probably made from Tapioca Starch.

Disodium Inosinate (E631) – the sodium salt of inosinic acid (E630) inosinates enhance other flavours but do not add any particular umami tastes. Probably made from Tapioca Starch.

I noticed that Guanylates and Inosinates (aka the disodium ribotides) often come together. They obviously enhance savoury tastes so it is also worth noting that a lot of ‘low sodium foods’ may use these as a very tiny amount of them already magnifies the saltiness. I can see it as a useful way of cutting down on salt, but they can aggravate gout. But ultimately, as food additives, these ingredients might make up an exceedingly tiny portion of the ingredients of your food, so I am alright with a tiny amount of them in my food if it works so well in enhancing the taste in lieu of salt! It explains why instant noodle seasoning can taste so salty even though it amounts to little more than a tbsp of powder!

Garlic Powder – dehydrated garlic in powdered form. similarly, dehydrated onion in powdered form can also be found. these powders are not to be considered an inferior version of the fresh ingredient. It is in fact quite different from the fresh versions of itself. Both garlic and onion powders add a completely different dimension to food even if you are already using fresh garlic or onion within the food itself. However, they must be heated up in oil for best effect.

But… what is “artificial chicken flavouring”???

I’m assuming that since it is artificial, it means that it doesn’t include any real chickens. Not that I care since I would eat real chickens anyway (and anything tastes better with a good homemade chicken stock mixed in), but this simply means that adding real chickens into the mix isn’t the solution to this “reverse engineering” exercise…

Plus, the reason why we want to make a chicken seasoning is because WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT IS THE TASTE OF CHICKEN! I mean, have you ever eaten a chicken? I personally like chicken, although thesedays I haven’t eaten as much of it as before. My mother makes an amazing steamed chicken, of which the ingredients are just chicken and salt, and it is one of the purest and most delicious chicken flavours I can imagine, if I had to describe what was chicken. I mean, what is this chicken flavour that we taste? Why do we know it is chicken flavour? How does we chicken flavour? HOW DOES WE ARTIFICAL CHICKEN???

The earliest patent I could find for a CHICKEN FLAVOUR was this from 1972, from a Marcel Andre Perret, an inventor who also devised a process for producing an artificial beef flavour in 1968. The patent application itself dithers through a few methods for producing artificial meat and poultry flavours, which Perret thoughtfully notes would be well suited for the use of a housewife who heats it and gets INSTANT CHICKEN FLAVOUR under conditions available to an ordinary kitchen:

From US 3689289 A: Chicken flavor and process for preparing the same:

Perret proposed a substitute artificial beef flavor formed by heating a hexose or pentose monosaccharide with cysteine and cystine to 90 to 100 C. for two hours in the presence of water, adding vegetable protein hydrolyzate and a 5′-ribonucleotide, and then heating again at at least 70 C. for about two hours, to develop the desired beef flavor.

Mortion et al. US. Pat. No. 2,934,437, patented Apr. 26, 1960, describe an artificial meat flavoring composition, composed of the reaction products of a pentose or hexose, cysteine or cystine, and water, reacted for at least one hour at the boiling point in the presence of water. This composition is similar to Perrets, without the ribonucleotide. Moreover, Perret requires that the mixture of hexose or pentose and cysteine or cystine be reacted at 90 to 100 C. in the presence of water, and that then the protein hydrolyzate and the ribonucleotide be added and a further reaction carried out at at least 70 C. for about two hours.

Giacino US. Pat. No. 3,394,017, patented July 23, 1968, describes a poultry flavor composition produced by reacting thiamine with a sulfur-containing polypeptide or an amino acid mixture derived therefrom, and thereafter add- United States Patent 0 ice ing an aldehyde and a ketone to the reaction product. An amino acid mixture for use in the composition includes at least one sulfur-containing amino acid such as cysteine or cystine. The mixture is heated at from 200 to 420 F. for from A minute to three hours, the shorter heating times requiring higher reaction temperatures.(…)

Belikov et al., Chemical Abstracts 62, 15339d (1965), (Z/h. Vses, K-him. Obshchestva im. D. I. Menedeleeva) 10 (1) (1065), in a study of the nature of food odors, reported that an aqueous solution of l-cysteine hydrochloride, dl-alanine, l-glutamic acid, glycine, glucose, l-arabinose and methyl arachidonate, after having been heated for two hours at to C. developed an odor resembling that of chicken soup. There was no report on the taste of the product.

In accordance with the invention, an artificial chicken flavor composition is provided which is capable of developing the flavor of chicken when heated in the presence of water for from five to ten minutes at temperatures within the range from about 60 to about 90 C. The composition can be formulated as a solid mixture, any liquids present being absorbed on the solid ingredients, and is stable indefinitely in this form, and develops a chicken flavor when heated under the stated conditions. Accordingly, this composition is Well suited for use by a housewife, who merely heats it at the time of use, and then can use it at once, without any need for storage, after the chicken flavor has been developed. This avoids the necessity of pre-heating the composition by the manufacturer, and eliminates the storage stability problems inherent in such preheated compositions. Since the composition can be heated under conditions available to the housewife in the ordinary kitchen, unlike the 125 to 135 C. temperatures of Belikov et al. (which require pressure), the compositions of the invention avoid all of the difficulties inherent in the prior flavoring compositions.

The artificial chicken flavor composition of the invention is a combination of a hexose, a bland protein hydrolysate, an arachidonic acid compound, such as arachidonic acid, or methyl and/or ethyl arachidonate, or a mixture of any thereof, and cysteine and/or cystine, or a nontoxic acid addition salt thereof.

It goes on to suggest some examples…

To be honest, it looks a lot like a recipe to me.

Oh look, not at all strange, but a patent for a TCM chicken feet recipe for tonifying qi???

Which leads on to some more “recipe” looking patents??? But can you patent a recipe? What is it under the patent classification anyway??

If you must know, the classification for Patent US3689289A is: A23L – FOODS, FOODSTUFFS, OR NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES A21D OR A23B-A23J; THEIR PREPARATION OR TREATMENT, e.g. COOKING, MODIFICATION OF NUTRITIVE QUALITIES, PHYSICAL TREATMENT (shaping or working, not fully covered by this subclass, A23P); PRESERVATION OF FOODS OR FOODSTUFFS, IN GENERAL (preservation of flour or dough for baking A21D) [2006.01]
1/227 · · · containing amino acids [2]
… which seems a little like a let down – what? Chicken is not its own category????

I mean like seriously this reads like a recipe for a roast duck… how do we classify patents anyway?

Which brings me to:
THE INTERNATIONAL PATENT CLASSIFICATION! classifying patents and allowing us to search for patent documents, “in order to establish the novelty and evaluate the inventive step or non-obviousness (including the assessment of technical advance and useful results or utility) of technical disclosures in patent applications.

AIEEEEE the mind boggles. All the terrifying inventions of food technology that I know so little of!
But now, it is dinnertime and I must make myself a dinner. Preferably with a chicken stock cube or something, for research purposes….

I still feel like there are insufficient pictures in this post so here is ROBOT CHICKEN…?