If you’re going to brave the steamy jungle of catering – whether you’re getting a takeout or eating in – you need to take a bit of care, and alert the suppliers to your dietary needs.
Most of us like to go out for a meal or get a take out once in a while. But for coeliacs and others on a gluten free diet, buying food ready cooked can be a bit of a minefield.
For starters, most take away food will be a problem. For example, even if you avoid the egg noodles (which are wheat based) in Chinese take aways, virtually everything will contain soy sauce – and the likelihood of this being gluten free is just about zero. You may find something on the rather limited English menu many Chinese take aways offer, but that’s probably about it.
It goes without saying that your local chippy is unlikely to give you much choice. The chips will probably be ok (though you should check that they aren’t coated in flour, as some prepacked chips are), also the chicken – if it is fried without batter or other coating – and you could have pickles to go with it, if you like. If you have a high sensitivity to gluten, even food cooked in fat which was previously used to fry something in batter will most likely set your symptoms off, so you may be best to avoid chip shops altogether. Having said this, some chip shops have a gluten free night once a week or so, and one I’ve heard about (the Greenisland in Congleton) offers gluten free fish and chips every day.
You should get more choice in the Indian. They don’t use soy sauce, and so long as you avoid the breads (chapatis, parathas, nans and so on), most of the food SHOULD be gluten free. Do check that they don’t use wheat flour as a thickening. Even the bhajis should be ok, as they are made with gram (chick pea) flour, though you need to double check this. Similarly, poppadoms are made from lentil flour, so these should be fine. Pickles are just various fruit and vegetables in oil, and dips are mostly made from yoghurt and seasoning, so you can even have these.
Don’t even bother going to the local pizza house, unless they also do jacket baked potatoes. Virtually everything else on the menu will be based either on pizza dough or pasta. If you get a potato, ask whether flour or wheat has been used in any topping before ordering it. Avoid the cheese, which is likely to have been bought ready grated and coated in flour.
Burger outlets, such as MacDonalds, Burger King and so on are best avoided. Even the chips are likely to be glutened.
If you’re going to your local egg and chips cafe, stick to eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and chips. The baked beans, sauces on the tables, sausages and burgers are all suspect, not to mention the toast and fried bread, of course. You may be ok with hash browns (ask to check the label), but tatty scones are off the menu, I’m afraid.
Moving upmarket a bit, Italian restaurants may have risotto on the menu (as well as the pasta which you can’t eat). Alternatively, you could take along a pack of gluten free pasta and ask the chef to cook that for you. Check that the sauces are not thickened with flour if you decide to take this course.
Greek food may come with a thickened sauce. Ask whether any dish you wish to order contains flour.
Like Chinese food, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cooking is all likely to contain soy sauce, making it off limits. Since it is mainly cooked fresh for each customer, however, you could take some gluten free soy sauce along and ask the chef to use it in your food. How well this would go down, I have no idea! Obviously if you do this, choose rice or rice noodles, not standard Chinese noodles.
Nepali is similar to Indian food. Avoid the breads, and ask about the wheat content of any dish before ordering. However, the choice of food you can eat is likely to be quite good.
If you have friends who are also gluten intolerant, ask them where they have been to, and what their experience was. There are lists of eating places online, but none of them is very large, and most seem to only cover a small area.
There is also a supplier of cards in different languages for passing to the chef in any restaurant you visit. This helps overcome both the shyness and language barriers. They’re available from http://www.dietarycard.co.uk/index.html which is not my site and nothing to do with me at all, but they seem quite expensive for what they are. Alternatively, go to http://www.celiactravel.com/restaurant-cards.html (another site which does not belong to me and has no connection to me whatsoever) where they have a series of free cards in various languages that you can print at home.
Take my fun quiz Are you Gluten Intolerant? to see if gluten is affecting your life.
And Now! get your FREE COPY of Gluten Free-Easy or Gluten and Dairy Free-Easy here: Free-Easy Publications