Long time, no post! Still living in Korea, now in Busan rather than Korea. I wish I could say that I'd found more options for eating out, but unfortunately there haven't been many changes. The most 'positive' change is that most of the big department stores have organic food sections now, which include random gluten-free selections (Kentaur cornflakes, Organicville sauces, Envirokidz cereal) if you're willing to pay the price, and some places have mini rice cakes. Food labelling has gotten a little better, so most ingredients are listed.
A few updates:
Don't eat the rice cakes (western concept or what Koreans refer to as rice cakes) unless you can read the ingredient list - many of them contain wheat, and the 100% rice version can be hard to find.
If you're planning to cook/bake for yourself, read the back of the rice flour packages carefully - most of the rice flour, potato starch and cornstarch sold at grocery stores are mixed with wheat flour.
If you want a little extra flavour with your bibimbap, ask for some red pepper powder (gochu garu) on the side. They'll likely give you a strange look, but if you go to the same restaurant regularly, the smarter wait staff will start to bring it for you without asking.
A lot of larger grocery stores sell Vietnamese rice noodles and rice paper now, and you can buy them in bulk at Costco.
Beware of pizza places advertising a 'rice crust pizza'. It's made with rice flour, but since most commercially available rice flour is mixed with wheat flour, it's not gluten-free.
Don't assume that Korean restaurant staff have any idea what's in the food they're serving...they certainly don't know that soy sauce, gochujang and doenjang contain wheat. Most of them will tell you there's no wheat in the food because they want you to buy what they're selling. It's generally not malicious, just naive behaviour.
Hi, Oceanmama! Hope I'm not too late...I rarely have time to check the board. I have been living in Korea for nearly 8 years now, diagnosed 2 years ago. Unfortunately, most of the absolutely wonderful Korean food that I grew to love contains gluten...
Basically, all sauces here are made with wheat. The hot pepper paste and soybean paste which are very common ingredients are off limits, as are most of the rice noodles and all the rice crackers I've found, all of which contain wheat. Potato and rice ramen noodles contain wheat. At a restaurant, make sure you only drink plain water. (Iced barley water is very common in the summer, although sometimes you will get iced green tea). Coffee whitener contains malt. The list goes on...
The biggest problem is that labelling regulations are extremely lax here. Often, only the main couple of ingredients are listed, so even if you have someone to translate the labels there's no guarantee that the products will actually be gluten-free. Imported foods have their labels covered by Korean stickers which also neglect to mention some of the ingredients.
TGIFriday's, Outback Steakhouse and Bennigan's can easily be found if you're in a larger city, but their menus are VERY limited when it comes to gluten-free food and cross-contamination is always a possibility. If you're desperate, McDonald's cooks their french fries separately and they have a garden salad.
For the good news: meat restaurants, where you cook your own meat at your table, are plentiful. As long as you avoid the marinated stuff, you should be fine. Watch out for the side dishes, though...many of them contain soy sauce or red pepper paste. Bibimbap, a dish you can either get hot or cold, is a bowl of rice and mixed vegetables. It is usually eaten with red pepper paste mixed in, but some places will give it to you on the side or you can ask for it to be left out. Sollong-tang, beef broth with green onions and thin slices of beef that you can add your rice to for a thicker soup, is okay as long as it doesn't contain noodles. Rice porridge (Jook) is usually okay, and you can often find different varieties (seafood, beef, chicken, etc.). There is also pumkin or red bean porridge available. Kimchi, the staple spicy fermented vegetable side dish, is generally safe. It is made with red pepper powder, not the paste. Oh, and I forgot to mention the grilled (whole) fish you can get, one of which is 'samchi gwi'. (I hate cooked fish, limiting my diet even further).
A lot of Korean food sounds rather repulsive when translated into English, but don't be put off. If you have any specific questions, you can reach me via cellphone...011-9917-8914.
Good luck, and if you discover any wonderful new restaurants, please let me know!
My body seems to have a love/hate relationship with oatmeal. Granted, the only kind I've been able to find here consistently (Korea) is the giant Costco pack of instant flavoured oatmeal. I gave it up for a while but after two months straight of brown rice flakes for breakfast, decided to give it another try since they had a different variety of flavours when I was at Costco last week. It's my suspicion that the cinnamon&spice variety was the culprit, since I haven't had any reaction yet. If it starts causing trouble again, I guess I'll have to resign myself to the brown rice flakes (a.k.a cardboard bits) till I move back to Canada....
Sorry to take so long to reply. This month and next is winter holiday for university students here and they flock to our language school en masse to magically learn English before graduation. This means that I have an overloaded class schedule, little time to spend with my husband and even less time to spend on the computer.
Although Koreans traditionally eat rice at all 3 meals, I limit my consumption to one bowl per day, max. I've also virtually cut potatoes and corn from my diet, too. I tend to eat Korean food for lunch and dinner, often some type of soup with various vegetable side dishes. Breakfast used to be oatmeal, but since I was still having 'mystery gluten attacks' I switched to brown rice flakes (does Kellog's make those in North America?) I still have problems sometimes. I'm not sure if this means that I've also developed lactose intolerance to further decrease my breakfast options, or if it's the coffee and/or creamer I often have in the mornings. The coffee in the machines definitely causes a reaction, but I don't always react to my own coffee. Does anyone have any ideas?
I guess I should be thankful that my weight doesn't seem to have increased in the past couple of months, but after being gluten-free for 3 months, I suddenly have high blood pressure. "You need to lose weight", was my helpful doctor's solution. Since I already exercise regularly and watch what I eat, he had no further suggestions for me. AAAAAAAARGH!!!!
Has anyone had any experience with Schlotzky's Deli? They opened one several months ago here in Korea. Unfortunately, it was before I was diagnosed so I know exactly what I'm missing when my friends have the sandwiches! I usually opt for the Chinese chicken salad but I've had reactions a couple of times. Not sure if it's the dressing or if it's cross-contamination. None of the staff speak English and my Korean doesn't extend to nutritional vocabulary. Has anyone from the U.S. eaten there?
I'm only eating rice once a day, per my doctor's recommendations about 15lbs ago. Obviously, the rice isn't the only problem. Eating fewer carbs and more fruit and veggies hasn't seemed to have had any effect, either. I seem to be bloated, too- about 5 days out of the week I can't get my wedding ring on my finger. Sigh...
I am SOOOO glad to hear that I'm not the only one who gained weight rather than losing it!!!! I have gained over 30lbs in the past three years while exercising regularly and following a lowfat diet. I've had my thyroid tested multiple times but the levels are normal. Even after my father was diagnosed with celiac disease last year, the doctors didn't think I had it because my weight gain wasn't 'typical' of celiac disease.
I was finally diagnosed but I've been gluten-free for 3 months now and I'm wondering if the weight will ever come off. Any suggestions? My biggest challenge is that I live in Korea and there are no special gluten-free foods available here. Although the staple of the Korean diet is rice, they don't sell rice flour, and a lot of things aren't included on food labels. Help!
One of the MANY tests I have had in the past four years in an attempt to diagnose my miscellaneous digestive complaints was a colonoscopy. The doctor found an unusual growth that didn't look like anything he had ever seen before, but which he assured me wasn't a polyp. In my followup colonoscopy two months before my diagnosis, there were two of these growths. I am supposed to go back in about 6 months to have them removed so I'm curious to see what the doctor will find this time now that I have been following a gluten-free diet...