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Gluten Free Thai Restaurants (Where are you?)

Thai Food - Gluten Free?
I’ve had a love for Thai food  every since I visited Thailand for the first time back in 1999. I cook Thai food at home a lot, I’ve got numerous Thai cookbooks and I’ve even been on a Thai cookery course.

When I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease I immediately thought about Thai food as being one of the best types of cuisine available for people on a gluten free diet. Pretty much everything Thai should be gluten free apart from wheat based noodles, soy sauce based stir fries & deep fried starters. This leaves lots of tasty options such as Pad Thai, Coconut curries, rice paper spring rolls, Thai fishcakes, satay dishes and rice dishes.

If I am cooking gluten free Thai food myself, things are pretty simple as I can either make curries or use gluten free soy sauce in the stir fries.

I had the impression that going out for a Thai meal would also be pretty straightforward – surely there would be a great choice of curries and rice dishes or Pad Thai style noodles available. Unfortunately I have not had a good experience going out for a Thai meal yet. Actually that’s an understatement – I’ve not actually managed to have Thai meal out at all in Edinburgh.

Last night I tried to have a Thai meal in Edinburgh. I had high hopes – the Dusit Thai restaurant in Thistle street in Edinburgh had their menu marked up with “W” against any dish that contained wheat.

Unfortunately it was not as straightforward as that. When I arrived and asked about gluten free food I was told that I could not have any Thai curries as the meat was all marinated in Soy Sauce! What? I’ve never once seen Soy Sauce used in a Thai curry recipe – only fish sauce. He then said that I could have any stir fry dish but they would replace the soy sauce with salt. He told me that the waiter would look after me and let me know which dishes I could and couldn’t have.

To cut a long story short the waiter told me things that were inconsistent to what the other waiter had told me. He then mentioned that the menu was wrong and the things marked with “W” were out of date. At that point I decided that as much as I was craving Thai food I just wasn’t prepared to take the risk of ordering it in a restaurant with an out of date menu and staff who had inconsistent stories about what was and wasn’t gluten free! Not to mention that fact that they probably would probably use a wok that had traces of soy sauce on it from previous dishes – Argh! I really hope nobody goes into that restaurant and makes the assumption that the menu is up to date – this is a really risky thing for anyone with a wheat allergy or coeliac disease and orders off the menu without checking first.

My other experience of a Thai restuarant in Edinburgh was the Chang Thai restaurant. I walked in and asked if they had choices for a gluten free diet and the waitress thought I was asking if they had any food for free! After much explanation and repetition she finally understood me, looked quite horrified and said “Oh, no, we can’t cope with any allergies here, sorry.”

I had a similar experience in Miami when I visited a Thai restaurant. It took a while to get the “gluten free” through to them and for them to understand what I meant, then they told me that they had no idea what was in their curry paste as it was delivered to them. They also looked a bit scared of the idea of serving food to anyone who had any type of allergy or intolerance.

If you are reading this and you’ve had a successful gluten free experience at a Thai restaurant in Edinburgh, or anywhere else, please leave a comment for me and let me know where!

I’m not going to give up because I love Thai food and there are lots of other Thai restaurants in Edinburgh, but overall I am pretty disappointed in how hard it is to get gluten free Thai food in a restaurant considering so many of the Thai dishes are naturally gluten free.

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