Replies: 5 - Last Post: Sep 25, 2012 11:01 AM Last Post By: pippali
Sep 23, 2012 10:16 AM
Gluten-Free IndiaI am looking to travel with a friend that is allergic to wheat. With her severe sensitivity to gluten, we are worried about the options available for food throughout our travels. Is India an easy place to find food for a gluten-free individual? We are thinking an abundance of rice and vegetables make it a good choice, but just want to be sure.
Anybody have any suggestions as to specific meals or restaurants we may enjoy? We're perhaps looking to go to Puducherry as an option. We are also looking to travel in Mangalore.
Sep 23, 2012 11:06 AM
1A good question! I also eat a gluten-free diet and recently went to India. India is one of the best places to be gluten free!
Rice is always available, and they don't usually add flour to soups and things for thickening, like they often do in some places. There are a few dishes that do add some flour; like sometimes vegetable-ball dishes have a little flour. But most do not in my experience. But it's always good to ask if you are in doubt.
In some places you can get uttapams and dosai, which are made with fermented rice and lentil flour, but make sure you don't get rava dosa because that is made with wheat. Ragi dosas are made with millet.
Sep 24, 2012 6:49 AM
2I honestly can't think of a better place to go for a coeliac than South India. Most food is naturally gluten free, and the very limited use of wheat in general minimises the risk of contamination during preparation. The further north you travel, however, the trickier eating will get, as bread begins to replace rice as the main staple.
I haven't been to Pondicherry so I wouldn't know for sure, but I imagine French or French-inspired cuisine may be more common in that area than in India in general. In the context of gluten intolerance that is of course a bad thing. A croissant is easy enough to avoid, but wheat flour added to a sauce or a soup: not so much. Whereas in France gluten intolerance is well understood by restaurant staff, that may (or rather, will) not be the case in India.
Wherever you go, get a gluten card written in the local language and make sure to use it. Don't expect it to make restaurant staff instantly understand the condition (many people just won't believe that a person could be sick from eating something as basic as wheat but will rather assume that the card has been mistranslated) but it still helps in getting the message across.
As you point out that your friend is severely sensitive to gluten you should probably read up on asafoetida/hing, a spice often added to various dishes. In itself it's gluten free but it's sometimes mixed with flour for ease of use. I've never been ill from eating it myself, but then again I can handle things that many other coeliacs avoid (love you, soya sauce).
Sep 24, 2012 10:29 AM
3Thanks for the tip on asafoetida/hing, ullstrumpan. I didn't know that. I just did a search and found a couple that are made with flour, one with rice flour and one without both wheat and rice. They tend to use very little of it in dishes, 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for a batch for 4 to 6 people, but someone who is severely sensitive would want to know that.
Sep 25, 2012 6:57 AM
4Indians are totally unfamiliar with the concept of gluten free products. you will break your head trying to explain them what gluten free is. I myself never knew what gluten free was until i moved to Australia. But the best part is you have such a variety of food available that you wont have to bother. stay away from chapati's/ Roti's/ Nan/ Paratha's which are varieties of Indian bread. Puducherry & Mangalore cuisines are more rice based so you dont have to worry about the gluten.
Have a lovely gluten free trip!
Sep 25, 2012 11:01 AM
5Indian wheat does have far less gluten than North American wheat (because they haven't hybridized it to make big puffy breads), and some people who have trouble with North American wheat say the Indian wheat is okay for them, but so far I have not risked it. But it might be some consolation if you happen to get dosed with a little bit of it but don't want it.
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