Gluten free at ethnic restaurants

Last week we had the good fortune to dine at Rasika, a popular restaurant in the "Penn Quarter" area of Washington, DC...just blocks from the Verizon Center, where we were going to see an NHL hockey game with our hockey-playing sons. We'd heard a lot about the restaurant -- and the buzz was that it was very gluten-free friendly. Not surprising, since most Indian restaurants don't use many gluten-containing ingredients in their preparations. It's hard to get a table here...most people have to make reservations well in advance. However, when I called (rather last minute) to inquire about getting a table, I was told that they keep the tables across from the bar open for walk-ins. How nice...I wish more places would do this. Otherwise, it can take weeks to get reservations at popular spots like Rasika. Although they don't have any information about gluten free options on their website, they assured me when I called that almost every item on the menu is gluten free, with a few exceptions. When we arrived (early) and secured a table, our server was most helpful and friendly. He pointed out the few items that would be off-limits due to gluten. This really... Read more →


Today we welcome Valerie Bowden as our guest blogger. Valerie has traveled extensively to Ethiopia and experienced the creative ways they use teff, Ethiopia's indigenous grain, which just happens to be gluten free -- and loaded with nutrition! She recently launched Eat Dirkosh, a teff-based snack chip company. She'll share some advice on eating Ethiopian food anywhere, including tips for gluten free diners...and she even shares some restaurant recommendations for dining in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. Almost everyone has dreamed of going on an African vacation filled of safari animals, exotic cultures, and beautiful people. While it may seem overwhelming deciding which country to visit on the continent, one of the best ones to choose is Ethiopia. This beautiful and very safe East African country is known for its hospitable locals, gorgeous landscapes, and its delicious coffee. Often referred to as “The Land of 13 Months of Sunshine,” Ethiopia boasts more than just great weather though. It's also a gluten-free paradise. Teff Grain Ethiopia's gluten-free pride and joy is teff grain, which is native only to Ethiopia and its neighbor, Eritrea. While teff is the tiniest grain in the world, it's a nutritional powerhouse. It boasts an impressive amount of... Read more →


I wanted to share this infographic from Goodness Direct, a website based in the U.K. It provides tips for dining gluten free in many countries. You'll learn key phrases that have been translated into the native language (print the infographic and cut out the phrases to keep in your wallet), top gluten free brands in each country, and the best markets for finding a wide assortment of gluten free foods. Embedded from GoodnessDirect Blog Read more →


I have to confess...French food has always been my favorite. Since I was a young teen and my parents took me out to my first truly French restaurant, I was in love with the food, the sauces, the bread... Ah...the bread. Well, that's not typically something you'll be able to indulge in at most French restaurants (unfortunately, I've found that too few offer gluten free bread), but you can still have a terrific meal while staying safe. Here are a few tips for dining gluten free at French restaurants, whether stateside or in France: 1.) Bring your own bread. To be honest, even if gluten free bread is offered at a French restaurant, I'm always nervous about where it's been baked and cut. There are just too many chances for cross-contact with regular bread and other sources of gluten. 2.) If you forget to bring your own gluten free bread (I always feel terrible if I forget to bring our son a gluten free roll), look on the bright side...you won't fill up on empty calories and will have more room for the wonderful French specialties (and maybe dessert!). 3.) Bring a gluten free dining card explaining your dietary needs,... Read more →


Welcome to my fourth post in a series on the topic of dining gluten free at ethnic restaurants. Today, I'd like to tackle Japanese cuisine, which can be a good and safe choice for gluten free diners, if you keep some key things in mind. To begin, Japanese restaurants will typically offer several styles of food: sushi, tepanyaki-style (grilled in front of you at your table), and tempura. Here's how to ensure a safe meal: 1.) Before dining at the restaurant, call and speak with the manager or chef. Ask them about what they offer for gluten free diners. Their knowledge of gluten free ingredients -- and how they avoid cross contamination -- should be readily apparent based on their answers to your questions. If they seem confused, uninformed, or misinformed, choose another restaurant. 2.) Ask them if they have a menu listing gluten free selections. Also ask if they have gluten free tamari to use as a substitute for traditional (gluten containing) soy sauce. (If not, ask if you can bring your own.) Our family likes San-J brand gluten free tamari, which is available in many varieties. I always try to purchase the organic and low-sodium version. (Travel-sized packets... Read more →


My husband and I have developed a real liking for Indian food over the past 8 years or so. We even take our kids to Indian restaurants on occasion. As long as we stick with relatively mild choices, they enjoy everything we order. It helps that the Indian style of cooking is, by nature, almost entirely gluten free. Of course, you can't have naan, roti, or any of the other breads, but there are plenty of other things that are so delicious, you won't miss the naan! As in China, there are many styles of cooking in India, depending on the region. Most Indian restaurants in western countries, like the United States, tend to focus on recipes of northern Indian origin like tandoori specialties (cooked in an oven) and curries, both shown in these photos. Indian cooking relies on spices for flavoring, all of which are gluten free, with the exception of something called "hing." Hing is a very potent spice, and a little bit goes a long way. The owner of Rangoli, the wonderful and highly acclaimed Indian restaurant in our neighborhood, said it is used more in recipes from southern India. He only uses it in one recipe... Read more →


As we all know, there's a growing number of people who are now following gluten free diets by choice. It's a double-edged sword. It has made restauranteurs more interested in offering gluten free options on their menus, but unfortunately, this is often driven by profit motives. Too many times, restaurants aren't properly trained (by organizations such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness or the Gluten Intolerance Group) in safe preparation protocol, and diners who must follow gluten free diets for medical reasons (Celiac or gluten sensitivity) can become ill. Italian restaurants can be among the trickiest types of restaurants to navigate, since there are so many wheat flour-based items on the menu...like pizza and pasta. If there is flour flying in the air from the pizza making, that poses another risk. As with dining out in general, everyone needs to personally assess Italian restaurant options and determine their own level of comfort before choosing a specific restaurant. But here are some general questions to ask, preferably before even walking in the door: Visit the restaurant's website. Is there a specific GLUTEN FREE MENU? While this doesn't mean you can let your guard down, it's usually a good sign the... Read more →


Each type of cuisine has its own potential pitfalls when it comes to dining out gluten free. That's why I've decided to start this new series of posts on dining gluten free at different types of ethnic restaurants. Almost every restaurant these days offers some sort of globally-influenced options on the menu -- even "All American" grills, sports bars, and steakhouses have a range of more sophisticated options. Knowing what questions to ask about certain types of food can help keep you from suffering the consequences of getting "glutened." For my first post, I wanted to cover Mexican food, since it can be one of the safer choices, from a gluten free perspective, when dining out. Most of the ingredients used in Mexican cooking are naturally gluten free, but there are a few potential pitfalls. Here's what to look for and to talk to the chef or manager about (notice I didn't say server...always ask to speak directly with someone who knows exactly how all the food is prepared): Request corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. This should open up options that might not otherwise be available to you (like fajitas, which are typically served with flour tortillas). Verify the... Read more →