Thursday, July 2, 2015

Celiac-Safe Foods In Thailand Part 1: Breakfast, Snacks & Sauces

Believe it or not, Thailand is a great destination for Celiacs.  Because the country’s staple is rice, not wheat, there are plenty of naturally gluten free options to choose from.

Breakfast in Bangkok
Let’s start with breakfast.  In my opinion, this was the easiest meal and I think I ate more at breakfast than I did at dinner. Most hotels offer both Western and Asian items, so you’ll see everything from traditional eggs to thai curry, sushi and rice porridge.  Ask if your hotel can walk you through the breakfast selections to tell you what’s safe or not – most hotels are very receptive to food allergies.  Each morning I ate yogurt, fresh fruit, eggs (usually an omelet), Thai curry with rice and gluten free bread (if they had it).  I’m telling you, I feasted at breakfast!

Mouth full of bamboo sticky rice
Snacking is also super easy in Thailand. My favorite go-tos were bamboo sticky rice and banana leaf rice.  Both are slightly sweet and can be found just about anywhere.  The banana leaf sticky rice is easy to eat as you just unwrap the leaf but the bamboo can be a bit trickier.  To open the bamboo, squeeze the top of the stick together to create cracks in the stem.  Remove the grass from the top of the stick and peel the stick down to reveal the rice.  I promise it’s delicious and filling!  If you’re not feeling up for rice, fresh fruit is also readily available.  Smoothies are also pretty easy to find but be careful, the ice may not be made with filtered water.
Another great breakfast!

The sauces are where things get a bit sticky (pun intended).  Thailand‘s main sauce is fish sauce, not soy sauce, and while this is a mini victory for Celiacs, it’s not a 100% safe bet. Below is a list of common sauces used in Thai food and what you need to know based on my research:

·       Fish Sauce: low-moderate risk
o   Thai translation: námplaa
o   Gluten free brands (based on my research): Tiparos, Squid, Golden Boy.
o   Not gluten free brand: Three Crabs
o   Found in: noodle dishes, fish dishes, can be in curry and pad thai, also served as a condiment

·       Oyster Sauce: high risk
o   Thai translation: Naam Man Hoy
o   Found in: stir-fried vegetables, meat/seafood/noodle dishes
o   Most sauces do contain wheat flour in them.  Make sure to ask or verify before eating!

·       Tamarind Sauce: low risk
o   Thai translation:
o   Commonly found in soups and noodle dishes
o   Most tamarind sauces are gluten free; in fact, I haven’t found one that isn’t yet!

·       Plum Sauce: high risk
o   Thai translation: Hoisin
o   Commonly found in Chinese dishes; stir fries, added to meat as a glaze or served as a dipping sauce
o   Most plum sauces have wheat flour in them.

·       Soy Sauce: high risk
o   Thai translation: Naam See Eew Khao; See Eew
o   Commonly found in Chinese dishes
o   Most soy sauces contain wheat flour.
o   Note: some international restaurants will carry gluten-free soy sauce but be sure to ask before ordering!

Interested in researching other sauces, ingredients or brands?  One of my favorite resources was

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