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Gluten Free Food in Asia – Street Food, Cheap Eats, Meals and Snacks

Gluten Free Food in Asia – Street Food, Cheap Eats, Meals and Snacks

Having a mild gluten intolerance can lead to discomfort and negatively impact your day. Fortunately, there are now numerous products available in the market that cater specifically to individuals who need to avoid gluten. This development is highly beneficial for those with gluten intolerances.

When you are travelling, the items that you typically buy from the supermarket and prepare at home may not always be readily available, especially when you are in a foreign country.

When travelling abroad, it is common to not have access to cooking facilities. This means that you may not be able to cook meals during your trip.

Asia is a highly sought-after destination for both vacationers and long-term explorers because of its pleasant climate and reasonable prices. However, if you have dietary restrictions such as being gluten-free, you might wonder if the affordable and enticing street food is suitable for you. Are the noodles made from wheat or rice? Can you effectively communicate your dietary needs to the food vendor?

In Asia, there are various options available when it comes to gluten-free street food.

Thailand

Fresh rice paper rolls are a delightful snack option for hot summer days when you are out and about exploring attractions. These wraps are filled with a variety of colourful vegetables and tofu, making them both delicious and nutritious. However, it is important to be cautious of the dipping sauce ingredients, as some may contain wheat.

Fried spring rolls, also known as rice paper rolls, are a delicious combination of cabbage, vegetables, and glass noodles. These appetizing treats can be found at street food stalls and restaurants, as they are highly favoured among food enthusiasts.

Khao San Road is known for its popular spring roll carts.

Mango sticky rice

Mango sticky rice, also known as Khao Niaow Ma Muang, is a popular Thai dessert that can be found in various places such as supermarkets, side street stalls, and restaurants. This delightful dish is made with Thai sweet rice, fresh mangoes, Asian palm sugar, and coconut milk. It is served with a sticky and sweet pudding-like texture, making it a beloved treat enjoyed by both locals and visitors from other countries.

Mango sticky rice is pre-packaged and available for purchase at supermarkets.

Coconut ice cream is a popular dessert that can be found at various markets in Thailand, such as Chatuchak, Khao San Road, and many night markets. It is made mainly from coconut milk and sugar, resulting in a delicious and refreshing treat. This affordable dessert typically costs around 30 TB and is definitely one of the top Thai foods on my list.

Coconut ice cream

Coconut ice cream is typically served in a coconut shell and topped with a variety of ingredients such as nuts, carrots, and sometimes kidney beans.

Barbecued bananas are a delicious treat that involves grilling ripe bananas. These warm and sweet snacks are ideal for people on the move, especially when exploring different attractions. You can easily find them at various side street stalls.

Papaya salad, also known as Som Tam, is a flavorful dish made with green papaya, tomatoes, green beans, and bean sprouts. The combination of garlic, chilli, onion, and lime juice gives it a spicy and bold taste. Topped with peanuts, this salad is not only delicious but also light and refreshing.

Street food vendor preparing papaya salad

Cambodia

Khmer Curries are delicious coconut milk-based curries available in yellow, green, and red varieties. They are typically served with tofu and a variety of fresh vegetables, accompanied by a side of rice. These curries are not only affordable, with prices ranging from $2-3, but also provide a healthy and satisfying meal. You can find them at numerous open-air restaurants and side alley stalls.

Vietnam

Fresh rice paper rolls are a delicious Vietnamese dish that you can easily make at home. These wraps are filled with colorful vegetables and tofu, making them a perfect option for a midday snack or meal. Just remember to avoid dipping sauces that contain wheat, such as soy sauce. Once you try these rolls, you'll be hooked and want to enjoy them countless times.

rice paper rolls vietnam

When ordering from a street stall, it is important to clarify that you want rice noodles instead of white noodles or yellow noodles. This confusion is more common in Cambodia than in Vietnam. To avoid any misunderstandings, it is recommended to avoid ordering fried noodles.

Malaysia/Singapore

In and 's major cities, there are numerous chain supermarkets like Cold Storage and I Sedan that offer a wide selection of gluten-free products imported from Australia, the UK, and the US.

When travelling, it's helpful to pack gluten-free cereals, crackers, biscuits, chips, and snack bars. These items are especially useful if your accommodation doesn't provide breakfast. While they may not be the healthiest options, they are convenient for on-the-go snacking or for bringing along on day trips or long bus or train journeys.

If you're in search of Indian culture and cuisine, Little is the place to be. Located in and in Malaysia, as well as Singapore, each Little India offers a unique experience. In addition to the wide variety of gluten-free traditional Indian meals and snacks, these areas are known for their affordable prices. For more details on Indian cuisine, refer to the India section below.

little india singapore

Little India in Singapore is known for its beautifully coloured buildings

China

Dumplings are a type of rice pocket that is typically filled with vegetables or pork. It's important to double-check if you're vegetarian or vegan to ensure you order the vegetable-only ones. The most popular ways to enjoy dumplings are steamed or fried, but boiled options are also available and equally delicious.

Dumplings

Taiwan

Barbecued sweet corn is a delectable treat that can be enjoyed as is or enhanced with a flavorful barbecue or sweet chili sauce. This versatile food is ideal for those who are on the move and can be easily found at street markets, both local and tourist, in major cities.

Try the smelly tofu in Taiwan

Try the smelly tofu in

Sweet potatoes can be purchased from any Family Mart store, which is conveniently located on every street. These delicious and nutritious snacks make for a satisfying option when you're on the move.

In a recent article, I discussed the wide variety of vegan street foods that can be found in Taipei.

India

Vegetable Biriani is a classic and highly sought-after dish that resembles a casserole. It consists of flavorful ingredients such as eggplant, saffron, rice, and a variety of other vegetables.

Dal is a nutritious and satisfying dish that consists of pureed lentils and yellow split peas. It is commonly served in restaurants, sometimes with a dollop of yoghurt on top. If you prefer to have it without yoghurt, it's a good idea to let the server know beforehand.

Aloo Gobhi is a popular Indian dish made with a combination of potatoes, cauliflower, and various spices. It is a personal favourite and a beloved choice among many.

Aloo Gobhi

Rice poppadoms are a popular traditional food in India, known for their crispy texture. Made from a mixture of chickpea and rice flour, they are often enjoyed alongside coconut vegetable curry or vegetable rice dishes for a delightful combination of flavours.

Pakoras are delicious fried snacks that are made with lentil flour and vegetables. They are typically served in a paper bag when ordered at a side stall, making them convenient and enjoyable to eat while you're out exploring.

Dosas are a type of side dish that resembles crepes rather than traditional Indian bread. They offer a fantastic alternative to wheat-based sides.

In India, there are a variety of popular foods that commonly contain gluten, such as naan bread, roti, chapati, poori, and paratha. If you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, it is advisable to avoid consuming these items. It is also recommended to opt for hot food choices to minimize the chance of foodborne illnesses. From personal experience, it is possible to indulge in street foods that are free of dairy and meat without encountering any digestive problems.

Indonesia

Gado Gado is a delicious dish consisting of steamed vegetables, tempeh, and a flavorful peanut dipping sauce. Typically, it is served with a boiled egg on top and shrimp crackers on the side. However, if you prefer, you can request for these items to be omitted from your serving.

Gado Gado

Introducing sweet sago rolls with palm sugar syrup, also known as ongol-ongol. These delectable treats are made from a blend of sago flour and palm sugar, resulting in a delightful dessert option. It's worth noting that these rolls are gluten-free and crafted with all-natural ingredients. However, due to their intense sweetness, it's recommended not to indulge excessively. Enjoy these small but satisfying after-dinner treats in moderation.

Juices and fresh fruit

Throughout Asia, you can find a wide variety of fresh vegetable and fruit juices and smoothies. These delicious and healthy options are readily available at restaurants, street food stalls, hawker areas, and markets. Additionally, you can enjoy the convenience of purchasing pre-cut and ready-to-eat tropical fruits that are incredibly fresh and sweet.

Juices and fresh fruit are affordable and nutritious choices for individuals seeking gluten-free, hydrating food. In a previous article, I discussed the wide range of unique tropical fruits available in Asia, offering a delightful exploration for those seeking new tastes.

fruit shake thailand

For individuals who follow a gluten-free or vegan lifestyle and are considering travelling to Asia, this article aims to provide useful information. The content is derived from personal experiences in various countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, , Malaysia, Singapore, , India, and Taiwan.

When travelling to , it is important to note that traditional Nepali cuisine shares similarities with Indian cuisine. The traditional dishes are typically gluten-free and consist of rice and vegetable-based thalis. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that larger cities in Nepal offer a wide selection of Indian restaurants.

Japan and Korea have limited availability, higher prices, and less freshness when it comes to fruits. If you're curious about fruit prices in Korea, you can watch a video by Eat Your Kimchi, a couple living in .

If you are looking for more information about gluten-free food and gluten-free cooking, you can find helpful resources on the website of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

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