So, this isn’t exactly a minimalist/frugal post. This is a sort of thankyou post to the internet and all who have ever published information on gluten free dining in overseas countries. After my recent experiences and discoveries, I feel like it’s only fair that I contribute to others and help them explore the world one gluten free country at a time. Particularly as I was worried about eating in Taipei and I have used posts published but many others. First however, a disclaimer. I am gluten intolerant and many of the foods I have consumed and am recommending may be subject to cross contamination- however I will try to explain as best I can how I think somthing may be risky. But please note, anything you consume is at your own risk as I can in no way guarantee anything is currently gluten free.
One thing that I would also like to bring up is that I’ve been travelling recently with a product called ‘glutagen’ https://glutagen.com/ (not an affiliate). This supplement is designed to reduce symptoms caused by gluten cross contamination. However make sure you do your research and check with your healthcare professional to see if it’s right for you.
First of all some of you may have heard of Din Tai Fung as this has now become somewhat of a gobal chain but Taipei, is its hometown. Knowing this, I contacted Din Tai Fung via email prior to my departure date asking about gluten free options. They were most helpful and came back to me with a list of items that were naturally gluten free! When we arrived at Din Tai Fung at Taipei 101 (tip get there early or outside of normal meal times). We selcted our items on a slip before entering the restauant (which is why I’m glad I asked in advance what was gluten free). However upon re-checking with the waitress she completely understood and spoke great English and assurred me the items I’d selcted were safe to consume. Luckily, there are many stores across the city, however be mindful due to its popularity you will have to wait so not good if you are in a hurry (I have previously waited 30-60 minutes).
The below is the list provided to me by Din Tai Fung. I had the shrimp fried rice and the house steamed beef soup! On another visit Idid try one of the stir fried greens also.
As you mention, the gluten free options as following:
1. Appetizers: Spicy Pickled Cucumber, Shaohsing Wine Marinated Chicken, Cold Dressed Chayote Shoots, Pickled Cabbage, Bamboo Salad
2. Soups: House Steamed Chicken Soup, House Steamed Beef Soup, Egg Flower Soup with Tomato and Tofu, Truffle and Mushroom Soup, Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Spareribs
3. Stir-Fried Dishes: All (Except Stir-Fried Bird’s Nest Fern)
4. Fried Rice: Shrimp Fried Rice , Vegetable and Mushroom Fried Rice
5. Sticky Rice Wraps: Sticky Rice Wrap with Red Bean
6. Desserts: Eight Flavored Sticky Rice Dessert ,Sesame Mochi, Snow Mushroom Sweet Soup
Recommended when you arrive the branch, please inform staff your request and they will arrange for you.
Now Din Tai Fung is great for a planned meal, but what if you are hungry right now? What if you have run out of snacks and desperately need something? Well have I got a scoop for you! Taipei (somewhat similarly to Japan) seem to be on the fancy convenience store bandwagon where you can purchase roasted (or steamed) sweet potatoes. These are not the sweet potatoes we are used to. The roasted ones become so caremalised and sticky they are like a desert almost. But these are cheap (you pay by weight) and in my exerpience there’s nothing added to these they are natural and you eat the skin and all. You simply serve it yourself out of a warmer and into a brown paper bag.
Another quick filling beverage/snack that is ubiquitous in Taipei? Bubble Tea! Taiwan is the homeland of the humble boba or bubble tea. The tapioca pearls are naturally gluten free (so stick with those) and then pick your drink! I consider this a drink as well as a snack as they are so filling. Much cheaper here to than in Australia, prices tend to start just above AUD$2 it’s cheap cheap!
Taipei is famous for its nightmarkets, it’s where all the loals go to eat local dishes, is a real sensory overload and is an experince not just dinner. Oh and did I menton it’s cheap?? But I hear you….street food in Asia=Gluten. Well not necessarily. I can’t recommend enough booking a night market food tour with Judy from With Locals https://www.withlocals.com/host/judysb51c1723f/ (not an affiliate). We conacted her prior to booking to ask if she could cater to my allergies (no gluten or dairy) and said that would be no problem. Judy helped us navigate different areas of the city before taking us to Rahoe Street Night Market on the daywe arrived.One thing though- go hungry!!! Food is included in the cost of the tour. Judy will tailor this to your tastes so let her know if you don’t want to try something.
I was lucky enough to try this Taiwanese fish ball which contains pork and a ‘soup’ like a soup dumpling in a clear broth. Judy advised that everyone makes this dish differently but she knew this particular place it was okay for me to eat. Now I was fine however I can’t comment on cross contamination as I’m not sure what’s cooked where. I can’t recall its exact location but if anyone wants to know I may be able to find it (picture below). I’ve also added an image of what to order, but do not add noodles or rice- this maks it a different dish. This fish ball was probably my favourite meal in Taipei.
Now Rahoe Street market was my favourite as was..Stinky Tofu! The place Judy took us to was amazing, however I can’t comment on cross contamination. Judy was able to ask for no sauce (which we also did on other visits) as I’m certain the brown sauce contains gluten. However, it does come with pickles (which I didn’t eat) but they are quite juicy so the brine is all over the plate. I didn’t have a reaction but I don’t know what’s in the brine. I’ve also included a picture of the stall so you can identify it (other places may not be as amenable to altering the dish).
I also really enjoyed the pork sausage from the stall below, super cheap however you are meant to enjoy this with a raw garlic clove. I did try it the first time, but I preferred the sausage on its own. I unerstand this to be gluten free, I didn’t have a reaction.
For something a bit bigger, try the torched angus beef. It’s delicious and cooked with a blow torch without sauce (toppings are added once the meat is in the box) but they have a Rose Salt option! Yay no brown sauce (well unless you request it). Depening on where you go the smallest serve costs about $5AUD but don’t get me wrong- that’s a lot of food.
Rahoe Street Night Markets also has corn options for somthing vegaterian. Don’t get me wrong though, this is a big meal and very filling. Be wary, some corn stalls will add sauce automatically. The one I went to just roasts the corn plain and for memory asks if you want sauce after. Obviously mine was plain but very delicious! He was also selling nuts which I wanted to try but sadly never got the chance.
How about something sweet you ask? Well don’t fret because I found two options at the markets that I didn’t react to and were so yummy. First of all I think these were Agar Agar pops, they were basicaly jelly on a stick and I couldn’t get enough. Cost about AUD0.50 cents. I had lychee, strawberry and grape! We also found a place that put small pieces of fruit in these jelly type balls- a little pricey but they are probably a lot of work. These were delicious I think about AUD$5 for the packet and you can choose your flavours. The owner is really helpful with what’s good on the day!
My biggest tip for eating at the market is to watch how things are made and eat where the locals are eating. My boyfriend wanted some fried chicken but most stalls seemed to be mysteriously not busy…if it’s not busy and they don’t cook things fresh- don’t eat there.
So plase don’t be afraid to travel to Taipei if you have a gluten allergy, there are plenty of options if you look hard! Many supermarkets also have sushi counters and there are sashimi restaurants as well that we ate at. McDonald’s chips also saved me a couple of times! However be mindful options at the aiport are non-existant except for a Burger King (hot chips) that isn’t always open. So make sure you are travelling with plenty of snacks. My flight was delayd and I was running out fast.
I hope this post can help make someones travels a little bit easier, so from me to you enjoy Taipei!!!!
Please comment if you have any questions!
Do you have any gluten free travel tips?