Related Posts with Thumbnails

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Living Gluten Free in Singapore

Awareness of coeliac disease is low in Singapore. Just this week alone, a nurse asked "What happens to you when you eat gluten?"... AND a doctor said, "You have an expensive allergy."

It is funny how some people attach snob appeal to gluten allergy, like it is some Sexy Disease.

Anyway, in Singapore, gluten allergy is not expensive at all. In fact, it almost ensures that in Singapore, one spends less on food. I can no longer eat in most Western food restaurants (... you know, Jamie Oliver... Jaan... Lawry's... The Clan). If one is not careful, gluten can be found in sauces and dips... or coating this or that. It is just not worth paying so much money to tikam-tikam an encounter with stomach cramps, diarrhoea and a sulking thyroid gland.

I hang out mostly in hawker centres and kopi tiams now. Restaurants that sell local fare revolving around rice is mostly safe for me. The whole range of nonya cakes that I never used to eat, must now serve as desserts for me. I have tried buying gluten free chocolate cakes... sponge cakes... bread. Seriously, they are nothing like the real thing. Most taste awful. I actually make yummier gluten free bread than the bakeries which sell gluten free.

Petunia's gluten free dinner rolls - light, fluffy and chewy. 
Most gluten free breads taste powdery and dry.

Most though, I rely on local food. It is a whole lot cheaper, a great deal more yummy than gluten free wannabe quiches, pies and cakes... and it is gluten free. So no, this is not an expensive allergy at all... and it is definitely not a Sexy Disease when one spends so much time letting loose in the toilet.

At least, my skin does not break out in boils.

In general though, healthy people underestimate the impact of a gluten allergy. In one café along Robertson Quay, I asked the waitress if they had gluten free bread. She came back with the answer "Our sourdough bread is delicious and gluten free." I was pleasantly surprised but I decided to double-check.

"What is your gluten free sourdough bread made of?" I asked.

"Like all bread, it is made of wheat flour," she said.

Oh dear... if I had believed her, I would be writhing in pain the next day.

Then, last week, I went to Aston's for ribeye steak. The gravy comes in a small bowl, which I remove because it looks like it has been thickened with flour. On this occasion, the gravy had spilled all over the meat. I considered what to do.

"Can you tell me if there is flour in the gravy? I asked.

"There probably isn't," the manager said.

"I cannot eat it based on a 'probably' dear. I can get very sick from it. Can you be sure?" I insisted.

This manager was quick to grasp the ramifications of her careless answers. She quickly said, "The gravy comes from a central kitchen. We don't know what is inside. I think you should not eat it."

Most servers don't catch on so fast so one must really be very careful when eating out.

No comments: