Gluten-Free Globetrotter is Going to Thailand

Flag of Thailand

Yes, it is true. I decided back in the fall that I wanted to plan a big trip for my birthday. What better way to celebrate than to to travel almost 10,000 miles away from home? YIKES! This will be my first time in Asia, so I am adding a brand new continent and two countries (layover in Dubai, UAE) to add to my list of travels. This is a trip that takes me way out of my comfort zone but I am ready for the challenge. Am I nervous? HELL YEAH. Am I excited? Even more so!!!

As with all of my trips, I do a ton of planning before I leave. This trip is no different except that I am finding it somewhat difficult to navigate this Southeast Asian country in terms of gluten-free research and reviews. I’ve read mixed reviews from gluten-free travelers about eating safely in Thailand. Besides eating gluten-free due to Celiac Disease, I also have a shellfish allergy. I think the latter is going to pose more of a problem than the gluten.

In preparation for my food restrictions, I received complimentary food allergy translation cards in Thai from Select Wisely that highlight both my avoidance of gluten as well as shellfish. These cards are “strongly worded” to alert the vendor or restaurant of my food allergies and came highly recommended by Jodi of Legal Nomads via Twitter. (Jodi is an extensive world traveler who also happens to have Celiac Disease.)

Thai translation cards from SelectWisely.com

Thai translation cards from SelectWisely.com

Jodi has written a book called The Food Traveler’s Handbook which includes “guidelines tailored to travelers with special dietary needs such as food allergies (celiac disease, nut allergies, etc), vegetarians.” I do not have the book yet, but I was quite inspired when I heard Jodi speak about her foodie travels from across most of the world at the book launch last fall. I love Celiac travelers that do not let their gluten-free diet stop them from traveling the globe!

Jodi gave me some other helpful tips via Twitter and email. She said “rice flour noodles abound, but a shellfish allergy is far more of an issue since [Thai] use shrimp paste/ground shrimp a lot.” Jodi adds “seitan (faux meat) is made from gluten” and often used at vegetarian places in Thailand “even with just the vegetable dishes.” Finally, Jody warns that “khao soi noodles in the north are made with flour and should be avoided” and like in the United States “soy sauce has wheat flour, so you’ll have to ask for dishes to be soy sauce-free.”

While translation cards are a “nice to have”, it is also a smart move to do some thorough research for safe places to eat while so far away from home. I often use TripAdvisor forums to search for positive (or negative) reviews of restaurants. I heavily rely on other gluten-free traveler experiences found in blogs, online forums, Facebook, and Twitter. Since this research takes time and effort, I thought it would be helpful for me to round up the articles and blog postings that I have discovered during my Thailand gluten-free research. Obviously I will blog about my own experiences once I return from my two-week journey but here is my summary to date.

Blogs about gluten-free travel in Thailand

Forum posts about gluten-free travel in Thailand

Restaurant and shopping suggestions

I don’t want to give too many suggestions here until I have the opportunity to try these places myself. Sometimes online reviews get a little bit shady and I need to go with my gut (ha!). I have read on multiple sites there is a cafe in Chiang Mai that sells gluten-free baked goods but sadly many people have gotten sick from their food. Rather than risk any additional stomach issues (already kind of banking on TD), I plan on steering away from questionable places.In Chiang Mai, The Salsa Kitchen came highly recommended from a number of websites. I contacted the owner who said his mom and sister both have Celiac and eat at the restaurant all the time. While eating Mexican food in Thailand might seem strange to some, I would rather have a safe meal than a non-cuisine. It was great to connect with the owner and discuss my food issues with him before I even left the states. Talk about reassurance! I definitely plan on going to The Salsa Kitchen during my time in Chiang Mai.

I found a link to a store called Maison du Vins 1994 in Bangkok. Although their site is in Thai, I used Google translate to discover they sell imported gluten-free food. Although not really near the places I plan to go in Thailand, I definitely hope to make it there one day. I love checking out markets and shops with gluten-free products when I am both home and abroad.

As you can see, I have already done a lot of research for my two-week holiday to Thailand. While I feel that some of my research will come in handy, I won’t know for sure until I am there and experience the sights, sounds, smells, and food first hand. I will be sure to report back on all of my gluten-free food adventures when I return. Until then…

SAFE GLUTEN-FREE TRAVELS!

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About Erin Smith

Erin Smith was diagnosed with celiac disease in the early 1980s, so she’s been eating gluten-free almost her entire life. Erin has a unique perspective of growing up in the gluten-free community and blogs about living — and enjoying — a gluten-free lifestyle. Erin Smith has been writing her gluten-free lifestyle blog Gluten-Free Fun since 2007. In 2011, she launched Gluten-Free Globetrotter, a website that encourages those with celiac disease to travel the world and not be scared about eating gluten-free domestically and abroad. Erin is also the lead organizer of the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup group, a social community that has grown to over 1800 members in the 8 years she has been organizing the group.
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10 Responses to Gluten-Free Globetrotter is Going to Thailand

  1. ackdavis says:

    What a helpful composite of good researching practices about traveling a particular place Gluten-Free. This would be easy to “translate” as a model for anywhere someone wants to visit. Thanks, Erin. Safe traveling!

  2. Thanks for sharing the information about the translation cards. I definitely have to look into this for my upcoming trip to El Salvador. Safe and enjoyable travels!!

  3. Enjoy your trip! Can’t wait to hear about it and see pictures!

  4. Sounds like an amazing trip, Erin! Have a great time.

  5. Erin, you’re going to have an amazing time. When in doubt, just grab some of the amazing fresh fruit sold streetside. Can’t wait to hear your stories!

  6. planktonbreak says:

    There are several shops in BKK that sell gluten free items also – Radiance Wholefoods and Sunshine Market. If you are staying near Sukhumvit, most Villa Markets and Topps have GF cereal and snacks.

    Also, I would recommend Koh Phangan as there are several restaurants which have delicious GF fare. Check out my blog: http://planktonbreak.wordpress.com/category/about-me/

  7. glutenfreethailand says:

    I was there just a few weeks ago. I found 5 places in total: The Yoga Retreat, World’s End, Macrobiotic World, Soma and Peppercorn.

    Also, I have changed my site’s address: http://glutenfreethailand.wordpress.com/category/gf-restaurants/

  8. Sweet blog! I found it while searching onn Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?

    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
    Many thanks

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