Wednesday, May 27, 2015

TAKE A PEEK: GLUTEN-FREE PHNOM PENH

 12/2016: This post gets lots of hits from google, so I thought I would update it with what I am doing now. Scroll down to the bottom for the update. 

Several people have asked what traveling Cambodia was like with a food allergy. Lauren did as much research as she could on eating gluten-free while in Cambodia, but there was not much information on the internet. Our strategy was to fill our carry on bags with beef jerky and fruit & nut bars and then to come up with this as soon as we arrived:



The first thing we did after checking in at our hotel was to ask our receptionist, who spoke English, to write down the things we knew Lauren could not eat in Khmer (wheat, soy sauce & oyster sauce) so that we could show this to waiters and chefs. 

The next day we had some free time and decided to take a local cooking class where we had the opportunity to make our own dinner. Thankfully there we learned that a substance called "chicken powder" is added to seemingly just about all Cambodian dishes. Unfortunately, it contains wheat. We had our cooking class instructor add chicken powder to this list, and Lauren avoided getting sick the entire time she was in Cambodia. 

PS. We did also randomly come across an authentic Italian restaurant that understood Celiac disease and makes homemade gluten-free gnocchi. We were pleased to know that we will have at least one friendly date-night spot!

12/2016 Update: 
Ok, that card up there wasn't great. I went through a couple different iterations until I could read and write (and type!) Khmer myself. Here's what I am using now which works much, much better:

Gluten Free Card Khmer For Cambodia

This says: Please help me: I have an allergy and cannot eat: 
  • Wheat flour or bread
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Chicken bouillon/ Knorr powder
  • yellow noodles
I can eat: 
  • rice
  • fish sauce
  • MSG *I added this because sometimes they automatically assume what I cannot eat is MSG and don't even bother reading the card. You can point to it if needed to clarify. 
  • rice flour, corn starch, tapioca starch
This is still a work in progress, but I hope it helps! I printed the card and folded it in half. If people seem to understand the top half I leave it at that. If they are confused about what I can and can't eat I flip it over and explain the second half also. This card seems to work much better than previous attempts!