You may be pleasantly surprized if you're in search of a gluten free restaurant meal and you like Asian, Middle Eastern or even Mexican cuisine. Reliance on wheat is largely a European and North American thing. These other cuisines tend to rely more on rice and corn. Still ask, some restaurants “Americanize” some of their dishes so you want to be sure.
Some of the best ethnic food can be found in little hidden away privately owned establishments. These are the folks who immigrated and bring the authenticity of their food and their culture with them. The challenge to finding a gluten free restaurant meal may come when you try to explain your needs and you run into a language barrier. Don't let this deter you, it may take a little patience on your part and theirs, but you will usually find they want to meet your needs. The upside is that the food is usually made on the premises so they can and often will make substitutions for you. And if you find a spot that you like and keep going back, you'll form relationships and the owners will get to know you as a regular and you'll start to feel comfortable that you'll be taken care of.
You can order or print off a Gluten Free Restaurant card to take with you when you dine out. They explain exactly what a gluten free means and are
available in many languages. This can greatly simplify the whole process of explaining your needs and you can get right to enjoying your food.
I’ve had very good experiences with Indian cuisine. Lots of rice and legumes! Sauces are usually thickened with rice flour. Authentic curries are to die for, and you can have it as spicy or as mild as you like. Leave out the Naan bread and you have a great
gluten free restaurant meal. Still
double check with your server to be sure there is no wheat flour.
These cuisines are rice based too. Many Pad Thai’s for example are gluten free
because they use rice noodles and usually are made with fish sauce rather than soya sauce. Ask your server and they can easily be made gluten free for
you. Wraps are often made from rice
paper. Sauces are typically thickened
with corn or tapioca starch. Watch for
soy sauce especially in the rice dishes. Some have this
added during cooking so you need to check. You can bring your own gluten free soy sauce to add at the table and you have an awesome gluten free restaurant meal.
Yes this is Asian, but I thought it deserved it's own paragraph. Japanese food is a bit different than other Asian cuisines. There tends to be less use of spices and more reliance on the natural flavours of good quality ingredients (not that the others don't use good quality ingredients). I personally have had some difficulty with sushi. Although the main ingredients in their raw forms are gluten free; fish, roe, vegetables, rice; often they are marinated in soy sauce or other sauces which contain gluten. Traditional tempura is made with rice flour but check to be sure. It's deep pride so you need to check if anything that contains gluten is cooked in the fryer. Also the sauces that are drizzled over the rolls can contain gluten. Pure wasabi is gluten free, but commercially prepared wasabi can have gluten. Imitation crab meat usually contains gluten. My best advice here is if you really love sushi, get to know your restaurant. Do some research in your area, take a gluten free restaurant card with you and carry your own gluten free soy sauce.
Mexican cuisine is mostly corn based so there are lots of gluten-free choices here. Just make sure the tortillas are 100% corn
flour. Some places add wheat flour to
make them hold together, though it’s not really necessary. Soft tortillas are often made from wheat flour. As always, ask to be sure.
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