Speak to me of Maggi

We get a catalog of German products and one of the items in the fall version was a small bottle of something called Maggi sauce. My husband’s mom is German and he said when he was a kid she always kept a bottle of this sauce to put in soups and stews. She’s in her 80s now and while she still lives independently she drives only when she has to these days, so we bought her a bottle as a Christmas gift.

I’d never heard of it until then, so I Googled it up and found out that there are regional Maggi sauces made to the tastes of the people in that region - there’s German, French, Polish, Mexican, Southeast Asian, Chinese, African and Indian varieties.

For some reason it’s not caught on here in the United States so I’ve never even seen it in a store in my area.

People who have access to it rave about it and say there’s nothing else like it. Vietnamese cooks say an authentic banh mi cannot be made without it. It’s made of vegetable protein but is supposed to add a certain umami/meat-like flavor.

There’s also Maggi bullion cubes and even ramen.

Have you used this sauce? Liked it? What’s the deal with this stuff?

To me Maggi is just a brand. In Norway you could get Maggi bouillon cubes, sure, but you could also get other brands, and the one thing I personally associate with the brand is instant mashed potatoes. The sauce I have never seen.

Maggi bouillon products have been at the grocery stores for a long time. Occasionally I’ve seen a bottled sauce. Occasionally you’ll find a recipe that calls for a Maggi product by name.

My folks were both from Poland, so this stuff was always in our pantry. We typically used it a few dashes of it in chicken noodle soup at the table.

I just used some today in my camarones rancheros (Mexican “ranch style” shrimp.)

It’s just used as an umami bomb in the same way you’d use soy or fish sauce. It has a very distinct flavor to it, although I haven’t tried all the variations. The Central European versions seem to have a certain lovage flavor to it. If you don’t know lovage (and most people don’t), it’s an herb that’s somewhat like celery leaf, but has a distinct flavor to it that tastes very much like Maggi to me (and to many others, as one of lovage’s names in German is Maggikräut, or “Maggi herb.”) Lovage is not mentioned in the ingredients of Maggi, but there is a generic “aroma” listed in the flavorings, so maybe that’s where it’s hiding.

Wait – interesting. I just checked my bottle, and this is the first time I’ve ever actually seen it in the ingredients. Right there, it says “lovage extract.” Hmmm…Mine is the Polish version. This is odd. Here’s an article from a few years ago about Maggi, and it says only the Swiss version has it on the label. That one doesn’t list lovage extract in the Polish version, but does list “artificial flavors.” Whatever it is, it definitely tastes the same as the Maggi I’ve always known. It says there the German version doesn’t list lovage on the ingredient list, but I would take that with a grain of salt; if I remember the German version correctly, it also had a distinct lovage flavor and aroma to it.

The Mexican one, from what I see online, is just hydrolized soy protein and color. I’ll have to go buy the Mexican version and the Asian versions soon and see how they compare.

This is the stuff we’re talking about.

Not at mine. I’ve literally never seen this brand at all.

This blog post about the various versions of Maggi sauce is old, but describes several different Mexican versions. The comments are pretty interesting too. I just think it’s way odd that it’s so popular in places like India and West Africa, and it’s not on our radar here and never has been as far as I can tell.

Must be regional. They’re common here in Chicago. Bouillon cubes, seasoning packets, and the sauce (that one can sometimes be trickier to find.) I usually have Maggi bouillon cubes in my pantry, but for some reason, the last time I was out, I guess I got Knorr instead.

I’ve lived in the Southeast for a long time now, but I used to live in Cleveland and I don’t recall seeing it there either. It’s been awhile since my last visit up there though.

Interesting. Looks like Poland finished #2 in his taste test behind Mexico. I’ll have to buy the Mexican version soon. I could swear I have in the past, but now I have a direct comparison, since I have a bottle of the Polish stuff in my cupboard.

I suspect the Maggi products here may be because of the large Mexican population (as well as the Polish population.) I’m pretty sure all the Jewel-Oscos (our local major grocery chain) carry their products. I go to a smaller regional chain called Pete’s Market, but they cater heavily towards the Hispanic community–at least at the ones I shop at–so they’re full of Maggi and Knorr products which may not be as usual at a Piggly Wiggly in the middle of Wisconsin, say.

There’s a Mexican meat market down the street from me that opened about 6 months ago, and a Polish market over in Durham. I’ll make a point of checking those places out soon and see if they carry it (the Polish market carries really good pierogi and potato pancakes, so worth going just for that). I’m also going to check Aldi’s in Durham to see if they have any.

Hmmm…I don’t think I’ve seen it at Aldi here. If it’s a reasonably stocked Polish market, there’s a good chance they will have the Maggi sauce there, not just the bouillon products (which really are like any other bouillon product.) ETA: Oh, and do check some Asian markets, too. Also, if you have a CostPlus World Market, check there, too. According to the online finder, the one on Fayetteville Road in Durham apparently has it available for pick-up today, so I guess that means they have it in store.

Definitely been in groceries in the northeast for at least 40 years. Where are you located?

Here’s the CostPlus Store Finder. Stick your ZIP in it and see what nearest CostPlus has the Asian version, at least.

I’ve lived in Ohio, Virginia and now North Carolina. The stores I usually go to carry Herb Ox (probably the most common brand anywhere I’ve ever been), Wyler’s, Better Than Bouillon (which is a new favorite of mine), a store brand, and sometimes Knorr.

I’m not sure I want to try the Asian versions, at least not out of the gate. From what I can tell by reading about it, those seem to be very similar to soy sauce while the others sound like something I’ve never had before (at least not knowingly). We do have an Asian market with an eye-crossing selection of sauces, though, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they have it there somewhere. I do need to get some more fish sauce and tamarind from them sometime so I’ll just have to remember to check.

It could be they have limited distribution. It’s kind of surprising that it’s not found nationwide since it’s been a Nestle company since 1947.

I’ve never seen any of the Maggi products here, and that bright yellow packaging would be hard to miss too. It’s the sauce I’m most interested in acquiring for now because it sounds unique. I hope there’s some other folks who can chime in on how they use it and what it’s like.

Yeah, if you can find the Polish version, that would definitely be a score, because that lovage flavor is something different if you’ve never had lovage before.

I am a bit curious as to why lovage has very little popularity as a culinary herb. It is a very distinct and interesting taste, and the herb itself is super easy to grow and a perennial. I guess it can be a bit of an acquired taste (there’s a bitter edge to the fresh leaf, but I don’t taste that bitterness in the Maggi sauce), but it’s a nice flavor to have in your arsenal. Eh, who knows? Maybe it’ll become the next hipster culinary herb.