November 17, 2012 by Katie
I’ve been traveling around Thailand now for 5 months. I’ve spent time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, and just about every area in Phuket. I’m gluten free as I follow the Paleo Diet, so while adventuring, I do my best to stay within those parameters. Luckily, I’m not celiac so if I accidently get a wheat dose, I’m not put on my death bed. Instead I get the worst stomach ache ever. And I’ve had numerous gut aches on this trip.
For the most part, Thai food is naturally gluten free and dairy free, which is perfect for me. Unfortunately though, wheat flour, oyster sauce and soy sauce with all of its many variations, continue to find their way into my food. I’ve done my best to avoid this, but truth be told, it’s not always simple as these sauces are what give most Thai dishes their flavor.
Plus, along with gluten upsetting my stomach, the MSG that is added to many dishes absolutely crushes me. While I can’t taste the MSG during my meal, afterwards I know I ate it because I can’t quench my thirst. I literally will go through liters of water and still be thirsty. I’m sure this is my bodies way of trying to flush out the terrible MSG that snuck into my food. My boyfriend even experiences heart palpitations, dizziness, and anxiety after a meal containing MSG, so this has become a major concern along with the gluten. Here is a link to symptoms occurring with the ingestion of MSG.
While I can’t be certain on this statistic, a Thai friend of ours, who is highly allergic to MSG, told us that up to 80% of the restaurants in Thailand use MSG to season their food. Most Thai restaurant chefs feel that if they don’t use MSG their food won’t taste as good as their competitors close by who do use MSG. This causes the chefs to loose confidence in their ability to produce delicious food, so they season it with MSG as a bulletproof method in ensuring their food tastes just as good as everyone else. This was very upsetting to hear, as we eat out in Thailand every day.
If you’re thinking about traveling to Thailand, just know that this will be an issue. Understand that every restaurant has a different way of preparing their food, so things can be inconsistent to say the least.
At the end of the day though, you should not let this be the deciding factor on whether or not you travel to Thailand. There are many ways around this, but you may miss out on some of the delicious street vendors. That may or may not concern you, but for me, I’m almost willing to take the gut ache and acne for fried bananas.
Here’s a list of meals that I typically order. They are all gluten free, dairy free and most are Paleo if you subtract the rice and a few peanuts:
Boiled chicken and rice.
Tom Yum Goong- spicy shrimp soup.
Tom Kha Gai- coconut milk with chicken soup.
Gang Jued- Thai clear soup with pork.
Pork Soup with Clear Noodles- this soup can be purchased from Thai street vendors. You can get it with crispy pork or regular pork. Make sure you request clear, rice noodles as they’re gluten free.
Rice Soup with Pork or Chicken.
Thai Style Omelet- fried and stuffed omelet.
Som Tam- papaya salad. Gluten free and dairy free, but uses peanuts.
Yum Ma Muang- green mango salad. Gluten free and dairy free, but uses peanuts.
Grilled Pork Salad- many variations of this, but it’s typically gluten free and dairy free.
Laab Gai or Moo- northern style minced chicken (gai) or pork (moo) salad.
Glass Noodle Salad.
Grilled Chicken, not breaded, just marinated. This marinade is typically gluten free.
Pad Thai- make sure they make the traditional recipe with fish sauce instead of soy sauce. Gluten free and dairy free, but uses peanuts.
Massaman Curry- gluten free and dairy free, but uses peanuts.
Panang Curry- gluten free and dairy free, but uses peanuts.
Bananas or Sweet Potato in Coconut Milk.
Mango With Sticky Rice.
Pumpkin Custard- a pumpkin filled with coconut cream custard.
*If there are any dishes that I’m leaving out, please fill me in as I would love to try them.
I hope this list of Thai dishes helps you when you order out or travel to Thailand!