For celiac patients and others suffering from gluten sensitivity, eating out at any restaurant is a challenge. Chinese restaurants often pose a particular difficulty. Not only does much of the menu contain gluten, there's also often a language barrier between you and the staff that can make detailed questions about the menu difficult. However, that doesn't mean that you have to avoid Chinese restaurants completely. Take a look at a few tips that will help you safely navigate a meal at a Chinese restaurant.
Carry a Restaurant Card
One of the simplest ways to overcome a language barrier is to carry a restaurant card made for people who suffer from celiac or gluten sensitivities. You can find these online for free in many languages, including Mandarin Chinese. The cards explain your diet and what is and isn't OK for you to eat. This can help avoid confusion, and once your waiter or waitress understands your needs, most will be happy to help you find items on the menu that you can safely order.
Avoid the Soy
One of the biggest hurdles in a Chinese restaurant is soy sauce. Some soy sauces are gluten-free, while others are not. However, you can't count on the restaurant you go to using gluten-free soy sauce. If you like the flavor of soy sauce, your best bet is to bring your own. That way, you'll know that it's free of gluten.
However, soy is not just a table seasoning – it's used in many recipes made in Chinese restaurants as well. As a general rule, you should avoid dishes that come in brown sauces, as these are more likely to be soy-based. Instead, look for white sauces that are made with corn starch. These are more likely to be safe sauces for you. Sweet and sour sauce may or may not be made with soy sauce – make sure that you ask before ordering it.
If you're having trouble figuring out what to order safely, plain steamed foods are usually safe. While many foods served in Chinese restaurants are breaded or served with various sauces, they usually also offer steamed rice, steamed vegetables, and even steamed meats. Order these plain, with no sauces or seasonings, for the best chance of avoiding any problematic ingredients.
It may surprise you to learn that one thing that you don't have to worry about in Chinese food restaurants is MSG, or monosodium glutamate. The International Glutamate Information Service says that MSG is gluten-free. While the ingredient was once made with wheat gluten, it now is made from items like beet sugar and corn starch, and should not pose a risk to gluten sensitive individuals.
You should use caution when eating out at any restaurant – there is always a risk of cross-contamination, and not everyone is sensitive to the needs of individuals who must avoid gluten. However, if you're careful and aware of common ingredients, you don't have to give up eating in Chinese restaurants just because you're eating gluten-free.
For more information, contact Lilac Blossom Restaurant or a similar location.