After hearing some feedback on our previous posts, I realized I have taken for granted having grown up in the very large Vietnamese enclave in Garden Grove and Westminster of Orange County, so I thought I’d write a short post with some info and fun facts about the magical (maggi-cal!) Maggi Seasoning Sauce as a follow-up to our previous post regarding com do.
What is Maggi?
Maggi Seasoning Sauce is a product from Europe, one of many Nestle products ubiquitous the world over. I (and many Maggi-users I know) pronounce it with a zh sound (mah-zhee), probably stemming from the French j sound (zh is the best I could think of to transliterate the sound, but think of the j in bonjour and that’s what I’m trying to capture). However, the German pronunciation would yield a more g-like sound; think of the nickname for the girl’s name Margaret. Whichever way you choose to pronounce it, it’s a delicious condiment!
It resembles soy sauce but with a deeper flavor and less of the saltiness. According to Wiki, it is “a dark, hydrolysed vegetable protein based sauce which is very similar to East Asian soy sauce without actually containing soy.” It is popular in Asian cuisines, particularly Vietnamese as a result of the French colonization period (from which banh mi is another culinary by-product). The flavor is difficult to describe, but there are definitely French-Vietnamese dishes that would not be the same without it.
Where to Find Maggi?
Your best bet would be a Vietnamese or Chinese supermarket. For people in So Cal, you’re set if you live within driving distance of either the San Gabriel Valley or Westminster/Orange County. I believe some Korean and Japanese markets may carry it too, but individual store inventory will vary. If you feel daring, you can even try the “Asian Goods” section of a national chain store (Ralphs, Albertons, etc.). I even found Maggi on Amazon.com but you would definitely be paying a premium if you go that route. I personally prefer the one from Germany. Maggi is produced in many countries worldwide, but there are subtle differences among them when it comes to flavor and quality. For us, buying a 6.75 oz bottle of the German import off the shelf at a grocery store would run us about $4. It also comes in large 120 mL bottles, small 3 oz bottles, and even teeny tiny single serve bottles (I’ll have to track these down and take pictures to post here!).
How to Use Maggi?
Now that you’ve tracked down the goods, what the heck do you do with it? When I was growing up, enjoying Maggi was as simple as sprinkling over my plain white rice during dinner. I remember my mother would always drizzle a bit of Maggi on the insides of baguettes when making homemade banh mi for me. If you’re looking to venture into French-Vietnamese cuisine, Maggi will be a staple ingredient. While I mentioned using Maggi at the table, there are also dishes that benefit from some Maggi during the cooking process – com do for one. The main tip I have to offer is that Maggi is not as salty as it looks. Maggi is naturally darker than soy sauce, so if you use color as a guide for seasoning like I do, don’t panic if it seems your food is turning too dark (and thus salty) too quickly. (Personally, my bowls of rice + Maggi end up a pretty mocha color when I eat!)
** NOTE: Maggi Seasoning Sauce is not particularly healthy. If you’ll note on the photo above of the side label, the ingredients include, among other things, MSG. Please take caution if you are on a restricted or low sodium diet. Everything in moderation (but consult your doctor or dietician if you are unsure).
I hope this blog entry helps those of you who are wondering about Maggi Seasoning Sauce. As always, we welcome your feedback and questions and love to hear from you!