Last night night I feel like I broke the unbroken spell hanging over Lillie of not eating in restaurants. Since she was diagnosed neither she (nor we) have gone out to eat due to the fear and uncertainty of food prep that was not under our control.
Yesterday I decided to take the plunge. Our family was on an outing near a Chinese restaurant we used to enjoy several times a year, Eden Wok, in New Rochelle, NY. I broached the subject to Hubby and he was apprehensive at first. He really worried that Lillie may be "contaminated" by gluten. I was worried too. Noone likes to see their child writhing in pain. I decided to call ahead and ask if they do gluten free meals, they said they did. I know they have a very nice sushi selection, and tried to convince Lillie on the way over that this was the "safest" option. But given the fact that she's never eaten sushi and she's five, I decided not to push the issue.
The takeout menu totes a sticker that says: Food Allergies? If you have a food allergy, please speak to the owner, manager, chef or your server. That put me at ease somewhat. When we sat down, I looked over the menu and felt frustrated. It seemed like everything was either coated or wrapped in flour. Many kosher Chinese restaurants have an "American menu" (which I thought they did), and would allow me to go with something simple like a hot dog (whose ingredients I could check and french fries). But they didn't, so I kept looking. Prior to being diagnosed with celiac disease, Lillie's favorite dish was lo mein. I spotted a section of rice noodle dishes. Our waiter didn't speak English so well, so I was a bit nervous about having a discussion about allergants with him. Instead I chose to go over to the manager and ask my questions directly. He was very hospitable, and told me the rice noodles have neither eggs nor flour (the lo mein noodles have eggs...bad for Rosie). But, the dishes themselves do have eggs and soy sauce. I asked if those could be omitted. He assured me they could, but seemed to convey that the taste without the soy sauce wouldn't be optimal. I decided Lillie could live with that. So I sat back down and I ordered one chicken chow fun hold the soy sauce and one hold the eggs and any sesame the dish may have.
The items came to our specifications and the kids dug in. Rosie had been very cranky as she eyed the crispy noodles on the table which she couldn't have them because they contained eggs. Then she wanted some broccoli from my chicken dish. As far as I could see there was no problem, but ever cautious Hubby (by the way I'm not a negligient mother, but I guess Hubby is even more cautious than I) wanted to ask if there were any allergants in the chicken dish. The waiter said the chicken may have been marinated in egg. I held my breath as I realized if my chicken pieces were marinated in egg, then in all probability so were the ones in Rosie's dish. We had a problem on a couple of occaisions in the past where she threw up after eating steamed chicken and vegetables--no sauce, what we thought was a safe dish. We were puzzled until we inquired at the restaurant and where told even the steamed chicken is marinated in egg whites. The waiter returned and told us, much to my relief, the chicken was fine. Rosie happlily munched away on my broccoli. She was even happier that she could have the fortune cookies which were eggless...that was a real treat. Lillie handled her fortune cookielessness maturely. I think she is beginning to see that she must be resigned to the reality of her situation. The restaurant also gives orange segments for dessert.
I considered our trip a success, but Hubby reminded me we wouldn't really know until the next day when we see if her stomach is bloated. This morning I asked her first thing how she felt, and was overjoyed when she answered simply, "Fine."
One caveat. Although I was boasting to Lillie that sushi (without soy sauce to dip, of course) is the best option. I noted at the sushi bar that the salmon pieces had a fake crab roll (a.ka. surimi) resting on them. Any self-respecting celiac knows that fake crab rolls generally have gluten. So be wary. You may also wish to ask the sushi chef to change his plastic gloves and even put a fresh piece of plastic wrap on the bamboo mat he uses for rolling the sushi. Always be wary of the little things that can set of a reaction.
Eden Wok in New Rochelle has an "all you can eat buffet" on Monday nights that included sushi (as of the last time I was there on a Monday night). This is an especially good deal as sushi can be expensive in general.
If you can't get to a restaurant, try this recipe from Martin Yan (fave Chinese cook) for vegetarian chow fun. Most chow fun recipes I found contained oyster sauce, which is not acceptable in kosher cooking. This recipe featured on the Food Network is complete without the oyster sauce.
Hakka Vegetarian Chow FunIngredients
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 dried black mushrooms
- 12 ounces fresh or 8 ounces dried flat rice noodles, about 1/4 inch wide
- 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 cup shredded napa cabbage
- 3/4 cup shredded carrot
- 3/4 cup bean sprouts
- 1/2 cup chopped Chinese celery or 1 small celery stalk, julienned
- 1/4 cup sliced preserved vegetable or mild kim chee (optional)
- 3 green onions, cut into 1 inch lengths
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl; stir until sugar dissolves.
Hakka Vegetarian Chow Fun
- In a bowl, soak mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Discard stems and thinly slice caps.
- If using dried rice noodles, soak in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain.
- Place a stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, swirling to coat sides. Add noodles and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add half the sauce and stir to evenly coat noodles. Remove noodles from pan.
- Return stir-fry pan to high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts, celery, preserved vegetable, and green onions. Stir-fry until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to side of pan, add egg, and stir-fry until egg is cooked, about 1 minute.
- Return noodles to pan and toss gently. Add the remaining sauce, stir to evenly coat, and cook for 2 minutes. Serve.