Gluten free diet in a Thai restaurant or in Thailand is easier than you think. We’ll look at what you can eat and what to avoid to eat Thai and be gluten-free.
There are some pitfalls to eating Thai food, as there are with eating almost any national cuisine on a gluten free diet. Compared to other types of food, the pitfalls in Thai food are easier to recognize and avoid. This is especially helpful when traveling in Thailand due to the language and cultural barriers.
Common Thai Ingredients
Thai cooking depends on rice rather than wheat. If the chef decides to thicken a sauce, they are more likely to use tapioca, corn or potato starch than wheat flour. On the other hand, don’t count on this outside of Asia.
Soy sauce, which contains wheat, is used in Thai cooking, but is not used in too many dishes. However, you must watch out for it.
Fish sauce is much more commonly used in Thai cooking than soy sauce.
Gluten Free Diet in Thai Restaurants
The main challenge in following a gluten free diet in a Thai restaurant outside of Asia is that the chefs may pick up bad, wheat-centric habits by living in a Western country. They may also not have access to the same brands and ingredients they are used to in Asia.
Fish sauce bought in Western countries may not be wheat-free, and could therefor not be gluten-free. Ask to see the ingredients for fish sauce.
Gluten Free Diet when Traveling in Thailand
Rice is the cheap filler of Asia, so you are much less likely to find wheat in unlikely places, compared to Western countries.
The most common source of wheat in Thailand is yellow noodles. You may come across other obvious wheat-based food, but it is not too common.
Fish sauce is used extensively in Thai cooking. Thai brands are unlikely to use wheat as this is not part of the transitional recipe.
There is a high Chinese population in Thailand, but they don not look or act very much different to Thais, at least not to Westerners who probably miss out on subtle tell-tale signs. You may find yourself in what you assume to be a Thai eating establishment, but which turns out to be Chinese instead. Chinese cooking does use a lot of rice, but they also use soy sauce much more than Thais do, so watch out for this.