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I went to Korea about two years ago. Generally I was able to eat well and gluten free. But I speak Korean, I was born in Korea, and I have some knowledge of Korean cuisine. You appear Western from the picture on your post. My recommendations are:
* Learn Korean.
* Go to Korean grocery stores and Korean restaurants while you are in the US and familiarize yourself with Korean cuisine; figure out what you can eat while you are able to converse with the wait staff and the chef in English.
As a rough rule I think it would be difficult to eat gluten free in Korea if you do not speak the language. And the food labeling rules are not the same in Korea so I do not totally trust the ingredients I see on the food labels. The big things to avoid are:
* Avoid soy sauce (usually it is made with wheat)
* Avoid go choo jang (a spicy hot paste usually made with wheat)
* Avoid miso paste unless you know it is wheat free
Some vegetables marinated in go choo jang may look like kim chee, but they are not kim chee and unsafe for celiacs. I was able to eat kim chee of all types. (Kim chee is a fermented vegetable dish.)
Much of Korean cuisine is rice based and naturally gluten free but you have to know the cuisine and ask a lot of questions. I posted on this forum a few years ago with more specifics on what I ate while I was in Korea. Perhaps if you look around you will find that posting. For example, on the second floor of the Seoul train station, there is a place called "Riceteria" that sells traditional rice cakes. Most of these are totally wheat free! They are often filled with sweet bean paste and made with rice flour.
An alternative solution - eat only at the expensive western type hotels. At these hotels, the wait staff all speak English and have some familiarity with food sensitivities. But you will be living in Korea if you accept this job so that is not a solution long term.
In the DuPont Circle area, the places I often go to include
* Chipotle, on Connecticut, near the north exit of the DuPont circle metro station. The food is cheap; I get the burrito bowl (important to avoid the burritos). I believe the hard tacos are supposed to be ok but I have never personally tried it. To be on the safe side I also avoid the sour cream.
* Other places near DuPont Circle include a number of Thai restaurants. The Front Page is a nice restaurant near the south exit of the DuPont circle metro station - you can always get a good steak there.
* If you have more time to dine, both the Austin Grill and Jaleo's near the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stop have gluten free menus. If you go inside Jaleo's they also will tell you the locations of other nearby restaurants owned by the same chef/owner and these other restaurants are also very celiac friendly.
* There is a cupcake place in DuPont circle where you can pre order gluten free cupcakes. I can't remember the name of the place though..
* Cafe Atlantico (around the block from Jaleo's) also has a very nice menu and is very friendly towards celiacs. It's a little more pricey.
I just returned from a two week trip to Korea. I found that eating gluten free was no problem in Korea. I was a bit worried because I only found people complaining online about how difficult it is to find gluten free food in Korea. I had a different experience probably because I was always with a relative who could tell me what is in the various foods. Much of Korean cuisine is rice based and is naturally gluten free. I just avoided the items known to have soy sauce and go choo jang (a spicy paste made of ground red pepper - this usually has wheat). I found if you ask "Does this food have wheat?" people will swear it has no wheat. They don't realize that wheat is contained in soy sauce and items like go choo jang. So it is better to ask, "Does this have wheat or soy sauce or go choo jang?"
More specifics on what I ate:
* As a rough rule, the soups ending in the word "tang" I could eat. Specific examples include gom tang (oxtail soup), sul long tang (like oxtail soup but has strips of beef), gal bi tang (like oxtail soup but made with beef rib), gam ja tang (spicy soup made of potatoes and pork spine), sam gae tang (soup made with chicken that is stuffed with gin seng, rice, and other goodies, it's quite good)
Gom tang and its variants are basically beef boiled forever. I usually ask for the soup with NO noodles just to be on the extra safe side but usually the noodles that are added to sul long tang is dang myun, which is a clear noodle made with sweet potato starch (so should be ok for celiacs).
* Kim bop: this is the Korean version of the Japanese sushi. These are among the cheapest foods you can purchase and there are places everywhere that will make it fresh. I usually got the most plain kind of kim bop, and I avoided the items I knew had soy sauce. I usually poke out the sausage but once I was brave and I ate the sausage and felt ok.
* Kim chee: I was able to eat all kinds of kim chee without problems. One warning: there are some vegetables that are seasoned with go choo jang, which contains wheat, but might look a bit like kim chee. So if you are not sure be sure to ask is this kim chee.
* I was able to eat nang myun, which is a cold buckwheat noodle dish but because my relative made sure that the noodles were totally wheat free.
* I had wonderful pork and duck, simply grilled without any marinades. These sorts of restaurants are everywhere too. Some of my best meals were at these types of restaurants.
* Bi bim bap: I believe other people in this forum mentioned this dish before. Basically rice with various vegetables and egg. Be sure to ask for NO go choo jang because otherwise they might put the go choo jang right in the rice bowl instead of giving it to you on the side.
* There are sweets made of rice flour and somtimes filled with sweet bean paste or sweet sesame paste. They are usually small, round, and I believe called ttuck (don't know how it is romanized).
I just read your post. You probably figured this out already but the soup galbitang is traditionally made with NO soy sauce. It is very plain, it is beef ribs boiled forever, flavored only with chopped green onions and salt. Ask for it with NO noodles just to be on the safe side. I have never had problems with this dish.
I have also never encountered seaweed that has wheat. The seaweed used for sushi is called gim in Korean. As long as I buy it plain and roast it myself I have not had problems. If you buy the pre roasted type of seaweed, that often contains MSG which contains wheat. It gives me headaches.
I just read your post but I see your post is dated some time ago. You probably figured this out already but the soup seollongtang is traditionally made with absolutely no soy sauce. It is basically ox tail boiled forever. Afterwards, you add a few pieces of chopped green onion, salt, rice and usually noodles. It is a very plain dish. This dish should generally be safe (unless for some reason there is cross contamination with some other item). I suggest asking for the soup with NO noodles just to be on the safe side. There is another soup, galbitang, which is similar but made with beef ribs.
Also, rice cakes (ttuck - I am not sure how to romanize it - it looks like a small white cylinder) should be ok as long as you eat it plain (no soy sauce, no hot red paste).
I visit my relatives in Korea occasionally. I can tell you that most Korean kitchens do NOT have a western oven. Korean cuisine does not require a western type oven. They will have burners (usually 2) only. Korea as a culture does not understand people with dietary restrictions very well so just be careful. For example, people may not take you seriously when you tell them you'll get sick if you eat wheat.
If possible bring your own gluten-free soy sauce and you will be able to cook fine. Some additional Korean foods usually gluten free are ttuck (I don't know how it is romanized - it looks white and cylindrical and is made of rice; usually translated as rice cake I believe) BEFORE any seasonings are put on it; sweet bean paste; many sweet ttuck (sweet rice cakes) are gluten-free.
I will be going to Korea soon myself so please share your experiences. I would be very interested to learn how you managed.
I hope you figure out what works for you. Celiac disease appears to manifest in different ways in different people. Another thing I am trying which seems to be helping is I drink a mango smoothie with almost every meal. The smoothie is made by blending
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup soy milk (if you are avoiding soy I believe you can substitute yogurt; if you wish to avoid dairy too, then experiment - perhaps just orange juice will work?)
1 fresh mango cut up
I blend everything (puree setting) and then drink it. I read mango has an enzyme that helps break down protein. Papayas and pineapples also have enzymes that break down proten but for me personally mangos work best. It really seems to help.
I also seem to have trouble with poor absorption. One thing I tried for the last 2 weeks, which seems to be helping, is I puree most of my food before I eat it. For example, I take regular chicken soup and I puree it in a blender before I eat it. I have been eating a lot of smoothies, a lot of pureed soups, apple sauce. I also generally eat my food warm, that seems to help digestion too. The overall concept is to eat the sort of food a baby would eat before it has any teeth.
If other people have other strategies, I would love to learn about them. Thank you.