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Gluten Free Travels through Asia

Our experiences of finding gluten free food in Japan, China, Phillipines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand

Armed with the gluten free travel cards from this website I travelled with my girlfriend whose a celiac round Asia - Japan, China, The Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. A few places are in the Lonely Planet for that country, Ill put LP next to it. Here s some tips

JAPAN

We spent 10 days in Japan. We wanted to stay longer but be warned, it is brutally expensive!

 

Fukuoka

- Gusto Restaurant (it s a chain). She had Miso soup set with chicken and garlic sauce with rice. We found this through the Khaosan Fukuoka hostel, the staff were very helpful.

Kyoto

- Restaurant Nijyu Maru (near Shijo Kawaramachi st opposite Macdonalds) were very helpful. It was a kind of tapas with quite a few dishes e.g. rice salmon soup, fried pork strips.

- Sushinomuashi (LP) did conveyer belt sushi and reasonably priced

- A-Bar (LP), a type of izakaya (Japanese pub) with lively student atmosphere had quite a few things and the staff were quite helpful.

- Sundal Hostel was brilliant place to stay. They didn t do food but were very helpful and you could use their kitchen.

Nikko

- Hippari Dako (LP) did Yakitori without soy sauce if asked.

Tokyo

- izakayas in Harajuku had a fair few dishes

- Alibaba Indian in Asakusabashi did gluten free (and amazing) curries.

*Most convenience stores e.g. Lawsons did rice triangles, salads and fried rice dishes which were good for lunch.

* We didn t go but I ve read Denny s and Bamiyan chain restaurants offer a breakdown of all their meals ingredients in English.

Overall, Japan wasn t too difficult to travel gluten free. The Japanese were very patient and accommodating.

Related: Getting gluten free food in Japan

CHINA

We spent 3 weeks in China, to be honest wasn t enough time. I kept this diary of the places we went to and feel this section should be bigger but a lot of restaurant names are written in Chinese!

Beijing

- 365 Inn on Dhazhalan St was a friendly place to stay and had Sakura Café Bar on linked to it. They did omlettes, fried rice (ask without soy sauce) which could be taken away for lunch.

- Korean restaurant opposite 365 Inn , which did bbq meats.

- On Dhazhalan street, towards Tiananmen Sq from 365 Inn, a restaurant did Peking duck cooked only with oil. Sorry I forget the name.

Related: Getting gluten free food in Beijing

Pingyao

- Harmony Guesthouse (LP) were very helpful and cooked a wide range of food.

Xi an

- 7 Sages Hostel (LP) offered many dishes, were helpful and it was a really nice place.

Yangtze River

- We went on a boat trip down the river and everyone seemed to be eating noodles all the time. The boat did offer food but it was quite expensive and it was difficult to clarify what had soy sauce in and what didn t. The trip was quite difficult and a bit underwhelming, do it if you have time and the weather is nice!

Shanghai

- Nowhere specific here but Shanghai seems a couple of centuries ahead of the rest of China and so had quite a few more Western restaurants.

Overall, with soy sauce used everywhere China was the by far the most difficult country to travel gluten free. The standard of English was the lowest amongst the other Asian countries visited and people were in general, not as helpful. It s possible but it s better if you re a hardened traveller!

The Philippines

It gets less specific now as the rest of the countries we visited we re a lot easier to find gluten free foods.

A good place to start is at the Mall of Asia in Manila. There was a shop there called Healthy Options which offered gluten free cakes, cereal and other treats (albeit quite expensive). Here s a link with the locations all over The Philippines
http://www.healthyoptions.com.ph/store_branches.php

We had very little trouble finding food throughout the Philippines everyone speaks perfect English and the diet is simple yet delicious consisting of a lot of sea foods, fresh veg and flavoured rices.

Overall, The Philippines was the easiest places to travel gluten free. Thoroughly recommended!

Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand

My girlfriend returned home after The Philippines, but I still kept a keen eye for gluten free meals on the menus. I m generalising here but the South East Asian diet is very different to Chinese diet and easier for the gluten free traveller. Hardly any soy sauce, huzzah!

Another person has written about Vietnam and I have nothing really to add to that apart from there was a gluten free shop called The Green Bean on the west side of the central lake in Hanoi that looked like it sold gf cakes and biscuits.

As for Cambodia and Thailand, again it was very similar to Vietnam and very do-able!

I hope people find this helpful!

Ed Fisher

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