Gluten free in Bangkok, general advice

As a coeliac (celiac in American) who was diagnosed at 18 months old, I need to be very careful about eating food so that I don’t accidentally eat gluten. Unfortunately, gluten is hidden in lots of non-bread-like foods, such as soya sauce, most oyster sauce and in anything that has been contaminated.

So how can one eat safely in Bangkok?

These are a few tips:

  • Street food is hard. While it’s good value, and there are gluten free rice pancakes (on Marley’s great blog), I would skip it entirely. I have never come across wheat-containing fish sauce, so I’d worry less about that, but my biggest problem with street food is that so many of the vendors cannot read (read Thai, that is). If you go with your gluten-free card or PDF it won’t necessarily do you much good. Though this is the way around I would prefer it, many street vendors will confuse soya sauce with soy bean oil (which is the main oil in use) so you will miss out sometimes.
  • Food courts are a mixed bag. Unlike in the West, Thai malls, Tesco Lotus and Tops Markets have food courts that sell a wide variety of street-food and other traditional Thai dishes. The staff here often cannot read, so you’re only a little better off than street food, but there are some guaranteed safe dishes. Note, at food courts, you buy a little gift card with money on it at a separate counter before you order.
    • Tops Flavour (at Tops Market)
      • Krapow moo* (spicy basil, pork and veggies fried with steamed rice)
      • Krapow ghai* (spicy basil, chicken and veggies fried with steamed rice)
      • Green curry
      • Hainanese chicken (even the broth, as it’s made from the chicken stock)
    • Tesco Lotus
      • Samurai chicken
      • Green curry (if they have it)
    • MBK food court (in Sukhumvit)
      • The only thing I have had is Krapow moo
      • There is also a high-end food court on the 5th floor, which has Indian curries which are safe (when they don’t have a roti).
    • Terminal 21 (on Sukhumvit)
      • Hainanese chicken
      • Green curry

* Just occasionally, I have received the same, but with all the items fried together in soya sauce. If the steamed rice is not on the side, say “Mai chiy” (not correct) and repeat more slowly “Krap pow moo” or “Krap pow ghai”. Chicken is somewhat hard to say (and it’s very similar to the Thai word for “egg” when said by a Westerner, so if you see the sign, point to this word: ไก่ (assuming they can read).

  • Yayoi has been a good restaurant for coping. They only have one dish I am sure is safe, but it is very good. And Yayoi is everywhere which is helpful. I have had no luck in its sister restaurant, MK.
  • MaxValu – if you’re not a tourist, or have access to a microwave, MaxValu has a penang curry and a green curry in their freezer cabinet for 49 baht that, though it says “mays [sic] contain… wheat” does not cause any adverse reactions.
  • Theera is a ‘bakery’ which has gluten free cakes and a gluten free spaghetti dish. There are at least two in Bangkok – one in Siam Paragon.
  • Issaya Thai – if you’re not on a budget, this is the best restaurant in Bangkok, and their ability to cope with gluten free is as one may expect. Location here.

Are there places I have missed? Let me and others know in the comments!

IMG_20151211_153435
Theera spaghetti bolognese

Updated 22 July with amended pronunciation and transliteration of “chicken”.

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