Gluten Free Diet | Gluten Free Travel | Gluten Free Indonesia | Gluten Free Malaysia | Allergy

Gluten Free Diet Indonesia and Malaysia

by Guest Writer

Following a gluten free diet in Indonesia or Malaysia is not too hard, but there are some pitfalls.  Follow these tips by Lukas to avoid gluten.

In response to some earlier comments, I have lived and traveled throughout Indonesia and Malaysia with my allergies.

I am allergic to dairy and gluten, and never ever consume even tiny amounts.

Dairy Free in Indonesia and Malaysia

Being dairy free in both Indonesia and Malaysia is quite simple. Just use common sense: caution with any desserts, make sure eggs are cooked in oil instead of butter, etc.

Gluten Free in Indonesia and Malaysia

Gluten free is a bit different. In Indonesia and Malaysia, it is easy to be 99% gluten free, but very tough to make it 100%. There are many seasonings that are traditionally made and added to rice dishes. The restaurant operators assure you the made these spices in their kitchen just hours before from only what the grew in their garden, but don’t let your guard down. Some import their seasonings from abroad, with unclear labeling regarding gluten content.

The one dish you can continually get gluten free (and dairy free) in Indonesia and Malaysia is called “nasi goreng”, or “fried rice”. However, like most things in rice-based countries, it is almost always made with soy sauce.

Make sure you ask the chef to make it without soy sauce. The way you say this, in both Indonesian and Malay, is “tanpa saos kecap” pronounced like taan-paa saaows kuh-chop”.

If you have can remember the longer version to ask, it will probably be more effective: “Saya allergie kecap. Bisa masak ini tanpa saos kecap?” (I am allergic to soy sauce. Can you make it without soy sauce).

Also useful: “Saya tidak bisa makan terigu” (I can’t eat wheat).

I ate nasi goreng at restaurants 3 times every day for 4 months, and not once did a chef refuse my requests. There is always some risk of cross contamination, so if it looks risky, don’t do it.

In Indonesia, they also serve meat kabobs, called “satay”. These are almost always marinated in soy sauce or other sauce, so you will need to ask if they can make it for you without sauce. If they serve a peanut sauce with it, make sure they made the sauce themselves, with just ground-up peanuts/water. Imported sauces always have a higher risk for gluten.

Shopping Gluten Free

In many of the larger urban areas of Indonesia and Malaysia (except Sarawak), there are Western supermarkets selling a handful of gluten-free products. In Denpasar, there is a Hardy’s located in Sanur which I recommend. In Ubud, a bakery called Kue serves gluten-free bread, muffins and cookies, most of which are dairy free as well. They usually require 1-2 days to prepare, so call in advance. English is spoken.

At the base of the Petronas Tower in KL, there is a supermarket, I think called Cold Storage, which must be Asia’s finest assortment of gluten-free and healthy eating options. It is small, but comparable to a mini Whole Foods.

In Kota Kinabalu, there is also a supermarket selling imported allergy-friendly foods from the US, Canada, and Europe.

Many rice dishes are also served with a hot sauce on the side, called “sambal”. This is usually just ground up pepper, but occasionally is mixed with soy sauce. Again, request it without soy sauce.

No matter where you are in this part of the world, there is always, always, always fruits, eggs, plain rice, peanuts, etc. You have to be proactive to get the more sophisticated cuisines made gluten free, and there is always a small risk, but for the jungles, cultures, beaches, and friendliness of Indonesia and Malaysia, it’s worth the effort. Let me know if anyone has anymore questions.

Thanks to Lukas for this article.

Please leave a comment below if you have more questions about a gluten free diet in Malaysia or Indonesia.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Majella June 25, 2016 at 08:15

Fantastic so thank you Lukas. I’m heading to Indonesia in a couple of days so I’ve recorded the text for asking chefs to omit soy. This is very helpful.
Majella

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2 aimie nadia othman July 24, 2015 at 21:26

Dear Lukas,

My name is Aimie from Malaysia.I’m interested reading your article.I would to ask you,about does people who have gluten intolerance and celiac disease can eat banana flour? Do you have any idea where can I get the real community of having gluten intolerance and celiac disease?

I hope I can hear from you soon.Thank you

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3 Allergy Guy August 9, 2015 at 12:00

Banana flour is probably gluten-free. Does the banana flour you have come with a list of ingredients? Can you contact the manufacturer? If in doubt, leave it out.

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4 Diki Lin October 12, 2014 at 22:19

Tq.Lukas for valueble infos on gluten free diet in Malaysia. Been a Malaysian myself am glad that 99% foods found here are gluten free I suspected that I am sufferings from Celiac disease or maybe gluten allergy cos for the past few years I had the few symtoms similars in the internet that I had did a research on it.

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5 gaelle July 17, 2014 at 10:35

thank you.
I am about to leave to KL and I was worried about finding glutenfree food during my expat in Malaysia. I feel a little bit better now 🙂

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6 Max January 22, 2014 at 18:47

First of all thanks for putting up the article – very helpful!

I’m going to Indonesia this summer and wanted to know what alcholic drinks you would recommend. Being gluten-free, beer is obviously a no. And judging from the news, arak is to be strictly avoided too. What options does that leave me with? I’m assuming imported alcoholic drinks only, but do I need to avoid wine and cocktails in restaurants, bars and clubs aswell?

Thanks in advance for any response

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7 Bubbles April 30, 2013 at 00:11

Hi there. We write a blog on living gluten free in KL. it might be of interest

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8 Helena Slater March 2, 2013 at 07:32

This article is absolutely brilliant! Thank you for posting this.
From this summer I will be working as a teacher in North Malaysia and the one thing that I was greatly concerned about was what I would be able to eat, especially after being diagnosed with Coeliac disease. This article has really settled some of me fearsof conconstantly worrying about what to eat and what not to eat!

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9 Allergy Guy March 2, 2013 at 11:39

I’m really glad to hear that, Helena. Perhaps you can post further comments when you get there to expand and refine the information.
Have fun! I can almost taste Malaysian food just thinking about it, yum, yum!

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10 jamil kazmi January 26, 2013 at 07:19

i am in kl and trying hard to get glutenfree bread , muffins etc for my wife she is 50years of age we came from Pakistan she is haveing problem for breakfast specially kindly advise from where i can get it thanks Jamil

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11 Bubbles April 30, 2013 at 00:13

Hi. There is a baker in Solaris, called Craft Baker. https://www.facebook.com/CraftBakersMalaysia
The have a dedicated gluten free baking and prep area.

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12 Emma Jackson October 24, 2012 at 22:18

I have set up a FACEBOOK page caled GLUTEN FREE IN MALAYSIA which includes my experiments in gf bread making, a diary of meals I prepare and eat and any new gf products I discover on my travels.
Please join and ask me anything.

RE: Indonesian creamer…
I use INDOCREAMER which I believe is Inonesian and have no problems or reactions to it, so have a look. As for Indonesian specific products the best way is to call them directly or just don’t risk it. Hence my recommendation of an alternative. I use Indocreamer every day. There wasanother I found in a packet called EAGLE that was also OK. As this is my first year into being gf I am still prone to mstakes now and then so wish to share what I have learnt.

Watch out for those 3in1 acks of hot drinks, I’ve had bad reactions to few and avoid MILO obviously too 🙂 xxx

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