Gluten allergy problems can be tricky to avoid at restaurants. Here’s an example I came across recently: fried onions contaminated with wheat flour.
This was hard for me to understand at first, but when I finally got the whole story, I realized why I seem to set off my gluten allergy when I eat out, despite my best efforts to avoid wheat and other evil substances.
Here’s what happened.
I went into an Indian restaurant. Indian cooking is generally safe for a gluten free diet, but you must always check at each new restaurant you visit, just to be sure.
So I told the owner about my gluten allergy, and asked if there was any wheat flour or all purpose flour in any of his dishes.
The answer I got back surprised me. When I verified that he understood, and accepted his answer, I was shocked.
He told me there is wheat flour in the fried onions. “Just a little bit” he assured me, although that is more than enough to set off my gluten allergy and keep me miserable and useless for weeks.
It turns out that he buys packages of fried onions, which have been dried and packaged in a plastic bag. He uses this for the base of most of his sauces.
Its one of the many shortcuts restaurants take to make the preparation of food food faster and easier for themselves.
Proper Indian food would have no gluten in any of the sauces. But this is not quite proper Indian food. Not all of the ingredients are fresh. Even lightly processed food, like friend onions from a factory, can cause serious problems if you have allergies.
The moral of the story is never to be complacent about verifying the allergy-safeness of the food you eat in restaurants.
Never assume anything.
Always ask lots of open ended questions.
If you have a gluten allergy, the less you eat out, the better, unless you know of restaurants that are absolutely 100% safe.