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TiffersAnn

Completely Miserable In Korea

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I have been in Korea for 9 days now and I haven't been this sick in years. I have done research for months now before I moved, but being here it's sooo difficult. If I never left my apartment to eat, I'd be fine. I love cooking and even experimenting with new dishes... that's great! But we don't know anyone here... and my husband wants to go out with our new coworkers and other people we meet. Everything I think that is gluten-free... isn't. it's sneaky... it's in EVERYTHING here!

I guess I was just feeling sorry for myself tonight and needed someone that understood.

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I'm sorry you're going through that. I went to Japan 2 years ago and felt like I could never eat out at all, especially since I didn't speak the language. I was there for 2 weeks and hated leaving the apartment, which doesn't make for the best tourist experience. Maybe there is someone on the board who is in Korea or from there that can help. But try not to get discouraged!! If your husband wants to go out, cook something for yourself before or after and just get a drink while your out. That's what I do here, I'm not very trusting of places in the US and I can communicate effecitively here. Hopefully you'll have a better next few days, but you're not alone!!

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Bentos(packed lunches) are a custom in Japan, maybe I should say a way of life so I used that to my advantage. My husband is a native and I speak a little but eating out was still such a challenge that when I was staying there on a 2 week trip and I didn't want to spend it sick so I packed bentos and brought them with me when we were out. Sometimes when we were out shopping or exploring, we would eat at food courts where he could get something from one of the various vendors and we could sit at the tables in the middle. I brought them in restaurants and DH politely said that I had food allergies and if they didn't mind I would be eating my bento and he would be ordering off the menu. That is not something the Japanese usually do but they were always fine with it. I'm not familiar with the customs in Korea but I've seen Korean kids in the states with similar to the bentos that the Japanese pack. In Japan, stores everywhere are filled with endless variety of boxes and other supplies for this purpose, both disposabel and reuseable. If that's the case in Korea, you could have quite a fun time picking one out for yourself! and it would give you freedom and confidence to get out into the world. I'm still bentoing away here in the states!

Check out lunchinabox.net

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Hi there!

I'm not in Korea yet, but I'll be arriving in early July. I was wondering if you're feeling any better about it since this last post. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, and I have to say that it has been one of my bigger concerns when preparing to teach for the year in Korea.

I've done a lot of research online about sources for gluten-free foods in Korea, advice from other Celiacs in Korea etc. I haven't gotten the practical experience myself yet, but some of these folks seem pretty credible. If you want I can send along some of my info for you, as well as some websites to check out re: gluten free foods in Korea.

If you have any advice that you would care to share I would also greatly appreciate it!

I hope it's getting better for you - I'm trying to get myself prepared to feel 'under the weather' again for a while until I can figure the foods out over there... but I'm still a bit worried.

Thanks,

~Kate :)

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Sorry to deliver a undesirable reply but the truth is...

If you suffer from gluten intolerance or any other food allergies / intolerances, your life is going to be miserable.

It is harsh I know but it is the absolute truth.

I am half Korean half English and lived away from Korea for half my life.

My digestive health has always been quite poor but in recent years it has gone bad to worse that I had to change my life dramatically by changing the food I ate and exercising regularly even though it meant getting rid of my laziness.

Things still did not improve much so I took an allergy test few months ago only to be told that I have a long list of allergies and intolerances. I knew about my sensitivity against lactose, gluten, preservatives and some chemicals but on top of that I am allergic to nuts, saccharin, food colourings, yeast, enhancers, alcohol and many more.. . So.. I mean even abroad it is quite hard as I have to shop either at a health stores or make my own dish.

Things are worse in Korea where food allergy is uncommon and many dishes are cross contaminated etc. Plus Korean dishes are famed for fermented goods and heavy seasoning.....with an endless list of ingredients. Plus 99% of the restaurants or take away foods contain food enhancers in fact they are even found in home dishes. So if you have food allergies and going to Korea but do not want to fall ill then I STRONGLY suggest you make your own dish. I am going to be there in few days time and extremely worried myself. Although it means I am going to look a little unsociable but since I do not like Korean dishes anyway plus not looking forward to killing my health over others' convenience, I am going to have meals at home and when meeting people outside, I am just going to have a cup of coffee with them.

I hate having food allergies. Although somehow I manage to stay off allergen foods during the day, later on I get so hungry and tired that my mind gives in and have them anyway only to make me ill. Stupid system really. I can only have fresh vegetables and fruits but even prepared salads has mixtures of other things errrrgh!!!! How are we suppose to live?!?!

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Hi Kate,

I am planning to teach in South Korea this coming March, and I was wondering if you wouldn't mind passing on any information that you have come across regarding gluten-containing foods. I was diagnosed with Celiac in early 2008 and I am quite worried about making the trip to South Korea only to find out that I can't eat anything. I am trying to do research but because I am not in the country yet, I find it difficult to trust the resources I have consulted.

Thanks!

Sarah

Hi there!

I'm not in Korea yet, but I'll be arriving in early July. I was wondering if you're feeling any better about it since this last post. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, and I have to say that it has been one of my bigger concerns when preparing to teach for the year in Korea.

I've done a lot of research online about sources for gluten-free foods in Korea, advice from other Celiacs in Korea etc. I haven't gotten the practical experience myself yet, but some of these folks seem pretty credible. If you want I can send along some of my info for you, as well as some websites to check out re: gluten free foods in Korea.

If you have any advice that you would care to share I would also greatly appreciate it!

I hope it's getting better for you - I'm trying to get myself prepared to feel 'under the weather' again for a while until I can figure the foods out over there... but I'm still a bit worried.

Thanks,

~Kate :)

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Hi there!

I'm not in Korea yet, but I'll be arriving in early July. I was wondering if you're feeling any better about it since this last post. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005, and I have to say that it has been one of my bigger concerns when preparing to teach for the year in Korea.

I've done a lot of research online about sources for gluten-free foods in Korea, advice from other Celiacs in Korea etc. I haven't gotten the practical experience myself yet, but some of these folks seem pretty credible. If you want I can send along some of my info for you, as well as some websites to check out re: gluten free foods in Korea.

If you have any advice that you would care to share I would also greatly appreciate it!

I hope it's getting better for you - I'm trying to get myself prepared to feel 'under the weather' again for a while until I can figure the foods out over there... but I'm still a bit worried.

Thanks,

~Kate :)

Hi All!

My partner and I are moving to Korea in a few months as well and would appreciate sooooo much any information any of you could give me. I have no idea what brands to look for or if it is safe to eat out anywhere. I'll be living in either Seoul, Busan or Daegu and would love to know where to shop etc. Any brands that you could tell me about would be awesome! I've heard that some stores have a special label for gluten-free stuff (orga whole foods)? I'm just not exactly sure what to eat when I am settling into my apartment. Maybe you would have some advice for me Kate?

I am so excited about moving to Korea and refuse to let my celiacs hold me back! It is scary though because I am super sensitive to gluten and dairy intolerant so I hope I can stay healthy there!

Can't wait to hear back from you all!

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Hi All!

My partner and I are moving to Korea in a few months as well and would appreciate sooooo much any information any of you could give me. I have no idea what brands to look for or if it is safe to eat out anywhere. I'll be living in either Seoul, Busan or Daegu and would love to know where to shop etc. Any brands that you could tell me about would be awesome! I've heard that some stores have a special label for gluten-free stuff (orga whole foods)? I'm just not exactly sure what to eat when I am settling into my apartment. Maybe you would have some advice for me Kate?

I am so excited about moving to Korea and refuse to let my celiacs hold me back! It is scary though because I am super sensitive to gluten and dairy intolerant so I hope I can stay healthy there!

Can't wait to hear back from you all!

At least you can prepare simple dishes with rice, fish and veg. and seasonal fruit. I did that quite a bit while teaching in Japan prior to being gluten-free. Also in Japan there is something called Foreign Buyer's Club where you join in on group orders of products and such from the U.S. and abroad. They have some gluten-free specialty products available and can be accessed online. I don't think they serve Korea but you might find something else that does. I found out about it through missionaries who use it. It was not limited to them though. You may want to try and contact some missions organizations stationed in Korea and see if they can point you in the direction of such resources. They may not be familiar with gluten or food allergies but they might be of help with food sources and then you may discover some gluten-free or allergen-free choices.

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At least you can prepare simple dishes with rice, fish and veg. and seasonal fruit. I did that quite a bit while teaching in Japan prior to being gluten-free. Also in Japan there is something called Foreign Buyer's Club where you join in on group orders of products and such from the U.S. and abroad. They have some gluten-free specialty products available and can be accessed online. I don't think they serve Korea but you might find something else that does. I found out about it through missionaries who use it. It was not limited to them though. You may want to try and contact some missions organizations stationed in Korea and see if they can point you in the direction of such resources. They may not be familiar with gluten or food allergies but they might be of help with food sources and then you may discover some gluten-free or allergen-free choices.

I am teaching in Korea now, but I have been here only just under two weeks. I have not been sick yet, but I explain to servers in restaurants and to private householders that I cannot eat gluten and explain what it is in such as flour, soy sauce, noodles and such. I never eat red paste or anything that looks red. I stick to rice and vegetables. Koreans eat very healthly and eat lots of raw fruit which is great for non-gluten diets. They also eat salads, tofu and vegetables barely cooked. Again, I have been here less than two weeks but no problems so far. There is a dish that is rice and veggies one can always count on and I have been to Korean barbecues that went great as well.

I am trying to speak Korean as fast as possible so I can say "hold the hot sauce."

Koreans eat very healthy and as long as you avoid the red paste and noodles, bread things should be fine, I hope. Of course, always inquire about soy sauce.

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Hi All!

My partner and I are moving to Korea in a few months as well and would appreciate sooooo much any information any of you could give me. I have no idea what brands to look for or if it is safe to eat out anywhere. I'll be living in either Seoul, Busan or Daegu and would love to know where to shop etc. Any brands that you could tell me about would be awesome! I've heard that some stores have a special label for gluten-free stuff (orga whole foods)? I'm just not exactly sure what to eat when I am settling into my apartment. Maybe you would have some advice for me Kate?

I am so excited about moving to Korea and refuse to let my celiacs hold me back! It is scary though because I am super sensitive to gluten and dairy intolerant so I hope I can stay healthy there!

Can't wait to hear back from you all!

Hi,

How exciting that you're heading off for an adventure in Korea! I lived there last year but really found it to be quite challenging. I don't think I've ever been so sick in my life (or at least not since I went gluten free, dairy free). I occasionaly found some products marked gluten-free in the larger grocery stores (Lotte Mart and Emart), but usually the gluten-free products I found were foreign products. The times I found these products was limited, but I lived in a fairly small city. So, since you will probably be placed in on of the larger cities you might have more options available. I guess my best advice (advice I should have followed) would be to be extremely wary of foods in retaurants. Definitely don't eat the red sauces, and often times you will get barley water to drink. When you ask for regular water (instead of barley water), make sure they don't put your new water in the same jug. Also, MSG is in many foods, so if you have problems with that be careful. You may be able to eat at the BBQs and Bibimbap (rice and veges), but I would make sure they don't marinate anything in soy sauce made with gluten. So, your best bet would probably be to do you cooking yourself. I hope this helps. Best of luck in Korea!

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Hi,

I hope that my advices can help all the people who suffer from gluten free diet in Korea.

Celiac is not common in Korea. So it is difficult to find gluten free products.I am Korean and I lived US for 13 years and returned in 2005.

I don't need gluten-free diet but one of my family member needs that. So I had difficulties to prepare meals in Korea without gluten free products. But Korea is the rice-based society, so if you think more challenge to try Korean food, it will easy to cope with. Some Korean Traditional foods does not contain gluten.-Sulungtang, Grilled pork(Samgyepsal)

I tried to find gluten-free products. The store named Orga has Gluten-free products like cereals and spaghetti sauce.

You can find instant steamed rice any grocery store.

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Foods containing gluten:



  • anything with red pepper paste
  • anything with bean paste
  • anything with soy sauce (none of the korean soy sauces are gluten-free)

These limitations caused a serious problem finding gluten-free Korean food. Bipimbap is gluten-free, only if you don't put the red pepper paste on it, but then it's just plain rice with veggies on top. I started carrying around gluten-free soy sauce with me so I could add some flavor to certain foods. Many/most of their sauces contain either pepper paste or soy sauce and it's impossible (even if you speak some Korean) to find out if it is truly gluten-free or not. Also, most all of Korean street food is deep fried. It looked amazing, but was completely off limits.

I did enjoy the samgyeopsal (bbq pork), galbi (bbq beef) and kimbaps (rolled up rice and veggies). Thank heavens there were fresh fruit and vegetable trucks all over the place. I cooked at home for most of my meals. First I had to find a Korean cookbook that had some English translations of the weird vegetables I'd find in the grocery stores. I had no idea, at first, how to cook most of what was available to me.

If you're traveling in South East Asia, Thailand has the best selection of gluten-free food. Most all of their noodles are rice noodles and they use chickpea flour instead of wheat flour for most everything. Soooo good.

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I am gluten-free in Japan and one thing it took me a long time to figure out is: don't eat hard candy or sugar syrup of any kind. It is sweetened with barley malt where the U.S. uses corn syrup. Do not assume that anything prepared and sweet is all right. Mizuame (Japanese word, sorry) is your enemy-- looks like Karo but is barley sugar. If you go to a coffee shop, don't take liquid sweeteners.

I love transparent noodles which are made of green bean starch. In Japan all soba (buckwheat) noodles are made with wheat flour but I have found some from Korea that are made with only buckwheat and cornstarch. Couldn't eat the sauce though.

Have fun and eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies!

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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 hope this is helpful for some people.

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I'm not sure who mentioned that there are no Korean gluten-free soy sauces but I did find this one: http://haechandle.en.ec21.com/Hansik_Guk_Ganjang--556254_556257.html I'm not sure how new it is but the company is Haechandle which is spelled 해찬들 and is based in Seoul. There is also Ganjang which is soy sauce that comes from Doenjang. Doenjang is hard to make but for someone who will be spending more than 6 months in Korea this may be worth it. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganjang .

For anyone that has Celiac Disease and plans on living in an Asian country like Korea or Japan where English is not an official language I would strongly suggest learning how to cook if you're not good at it now and learning as much as possible about the culinary styles of that country, ie what you can and cannot eat and how things are cooked. You should know enough of the language to be able to read an ingredient list and ask questions in the language of the country that you are going to. I understand that this is a monumental task but it is essential. You need to also find someone who can help you out. Going out to a restaurant and hoping for the best will not work. As most people are already aware, just going out and ordering gluten-free in your primary language and in your home country can be daunting but doing so in another country where you aren't fluent and they have never heard of celiac disease is harmful.

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If you're living in Korea, there's an extremely helpful online resource called Iherb.com where you can shop for gluten free items (grocery, toothpaste, etc.) and have it delivered within the week.  The website is available in Korean and English, and delivers to both America and Korea.  It costs four dollars to ship to Korea if your package is under 20 pounds, I believe.  I've also heard of a website called vitacost.com, but I haven't tried it yet.

 

Beyond that, I eat mainly from my own kitchen - a lot of vegetables, meat, eggs, fruit, and I've found the plain "Denmark" yogurt at Homeplus to be safe, as well as the "Homeplus" brand walnuts, cashews, pecans, and almonds.  You can also find Skippy peanut butter, Nutella, Strong Bow (hard apple cider), a variety of decently priced wines, and tuna in water that have all treated me well.  (Homeplus is one of the big chain supermarkets.)  To create some variety for myself, I make stir-fries, curries, stews, and salads.  At foreign food markets (in Itaewon, Seoul) I have also found dried beans that I soak and incorporate into my diet - lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, etc.  

 

The only place I eat out at is at samgyupsal places - the grilled, plain pork.  I haven't had any problem with it, and it's pretty darn tasty, with a nice side of salad greens, mushrooms, onions, and garlic.  Yum!  It's safe to eat bibimbop (bee beem bop) as well, but I try to stay away from large amounts of white rice  (Bibimbop is a mixture of veggies and rice, usually with an over-easy egg on top.)

 

Make sure to stay away from all the mixed coffees and teas - they're plentiful, but not necessarily safe for us.  I order black tea and chai tea from Iherb.com.  You are able to get ground tesco coffee at Homeplus if you can't live without.  :)  

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    Overall global prevalence of celiac disease was 1.4% in 275,818 individuals, based on positive blood tests for anti-tissue transglutaminase and/or anti-endomysial antibodies. The pooled global prevalence of biopsy-confirmed celiac disease was 0.7% in 138,792 individuals. That means that numerous people with celiac disease potentially remain undiagnosed.
    Rates of celiac disease were 0.4% in South America, 0.5% in Africa and North America, 0.6% in Asia, and 0.8% in Europe and Oceania; the prevalence was 0.6% in female vs 0.4% males. Celiac disease was significantly more common in children than adults.
    This systematic review and meta-analysis showed celiac disease to be reported worldwide. Blood test data shows celiac disease rate of 1.4%, while biopsy data shows 0.7%. The prevalence of celiac disease varies with sex, age, and location. 
    This review demonstrates a need for more comprehensive population-based studies of celiac disease in numerous countries.  The 1.4% rate indicates that there are 91.2 million people worldwide with celiac disease, and 3.9 million are in the U.S.A.
    Source:
    Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jun;16(6):823-836.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.06.037.