Being gluten-free and eating Asian food should be easy. After all, most of the ingredients commonly associated with Asian cuisine are staples in the gluten-free diet and that means rice, tofu and sesame oil.
What's the problem then?
Well, soy sauce usually contains gluten and it's also the most common ingredient used in Asian cooking. Soy sauce also is a big part of other sauces, such as Teriyaki, Hoisin and Black Bean sauce, and also can be found in wasabi. And because soy sauce is everywhere, that means it touches nearly every instrument or tool in a restaurant or chef's kitchen, thus causing every gluten-free eater's worst nightmare: the unseen and dreaded cross-contact.
Now, this may seem strange to some of you, seeing as the term "soy sauce" has the word "soy" in it. Wouldn't that mean it's made from soy beans?
Well, yes, and no.
Both soy sauce and its sister, tamari, are made from fermented soy beans, however, the main difference between the two is the amount of wheat added to each. Soy sauce has more wheat as an ingredient as most options are made using 50 percent soy and 50 percent wheat. Meanwhile, tamari is traditionally wheat-free and completely made from soy.
While I'd love to tell you that the easiest way to cater to your gluten-free diners is to just use tamari, some tamari recipes today may also contain wheat (though far less than traditional soy recipes). But don't despair. There are still gluten-free options!
The most popular soy substitute is San-J Tamari, which comes with a gluten-free version. Other companies also have gluten-free options and it will come down to individual taste and price to determine which is best for your restaurant.
Once you've selected your sauce, communicate that it's gluten-free, or part of a gluten-free dish, to your diners. This can be done on your paper menus or your menu boards. Just make sure it's visible and easy for your diners to see. To further ease the minds of your guests, place a Gluten-Free Certification Seal in your window. This is a seal that signifies your menu items have been reviewed and analyzed by a third-party and they are confirmed as gluten-free. My company, MenuTrinfo, does gluten-free analysis and has provided this gluten-free seal to restaurants across the country. This seal signifies to your diners that your restaurant is concerned about their comfort and safety and is taking the necessary steps to put their minds at ease.
Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC.