For years, I'd heard bits and pieces about a flavoring agent called Maggi Seasoning, but it wasn't until recently that I had a chance to see how it's put to use. You may not be familiar with the ingredient itself, but this dark, vegetable protein-based liquid is used to add oomph to scores of popular products worldwide.
Maggi (pronounced "maggie") looks a whole lot like soy sauce, but it's, in fact, not an Asian sauce at all: the sauce, now owned by Nestle, was invented in 1886 in, of all places, Switzerland, where it was originally used as a substitute for meat extract. Today, the European pantry staple is popular not only in Europe, but has also turned up in corners of the world like Mexico, Malaysia, and Brunei.
The formula, which consists of wheat gluten, water, salt, and wheat bran (among other things) is highly seasoned and therefore used sparingly, but it's commonly used to add a boost of flavor to everything from gravies and salad dressings to matzo balls and bánh mì. Have you ever cooked with Maggi seasoning?