Posts Tagged ‘soy sauce’

Reflections on Cooking & Dining in Japan, and World Travel as a Celiac

Posted in advice, cooking, Restaurants, travel on January 20th, 2011 by Betsy – 5 Comments

Thankfully, I stayed healthy the entire time I was in Japan.  Pretty impressive for my first trip outside of North America since my diagnosis.  My sister-in-law, Alden went to great lengths to make sure that I had plenty of food options in their home (rice cakes, peanut butter, Chex, M&M’s) and she even researched dining options out.

At work in the kitchen.

At work in the kitchen.

There is something a little sad about no longer being able to be a culinary adventurer when I travel.  I miss being able to say “Sure, why not?” when something is put down in front of me.  Now there is lots of research to be done, questions to be asked, and restraint to be used.  I have never been tempted to eat gluten or break my diet.  I remember how miserable I was when during the height of my illness so no piece of pizza or cookie is worth purposefully feeling crummy.  In Japan, I was pitifully unadventurous in my cuisine, when dining out.  For the most part, I stuck with cucumber rolls, pickled plum and shrimp sushi, with my GF soy sauce.  Nothing fancy but still yummy and at least felt a little “Japanesey”.

Just because I couldn’t partake in all of the sampling fun, didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy watching every plate go by me on the sushi conveyor belt at a restaurant.  And one of the highlights of the trip for me was going to a department store in Tokyo and taking in all of the sights in their version of a ‘food court.’  Did I know what anything was?  Nope.  Were any ingredients listed?  None in English.  Could I try it?  No.  But that’s ok.  Glass case, after glass case, full of beautiful dishes was still a sight worth seeing.

Just a taste of a Tokyo department store food cart.  No Sbarro here.

Just a taste of a Tokyo department store food cart. No Sbarro here.

At home we ate delicious “ovenless” meals, and one night we even made our own version of ramen, using rice noodles that Alden thoughtfully purchased.  We followed Gluten Free Girl’s recipe for Spontaneous Pork Ramen.  We made a few changes, but for the most part stuck to the original recipe.  It was yummy!  I was particularly proud of myself because I navigated the Hayama grocery store, solo, to pick up some of the ingredients for the dinner.  You should have seen me trying to identify pork and bok choy with no English for guidance.

We spent our last two days of the trip in Tokyo, and on our final night, we went out to an amazing dinner at Nobu.  That name might sound familiar to you because this high end restaurant has locations in New York, San Diego, Dallas and other cities.  I brought my card that explained celiac/gluten in Japanese and the folks at Nobu were very receptive.  (They even made a photo copy of the card and brought me back my original copy!)



At Nobu, we shared some veggie rolls and for my entrée, I ordered the salmon, which was delicious, and one of the most perfectly cooked pieces of meat I’ve ever eaten.  The dish came with a mango salsa rice and the flavors complimented the salmon perfectly and uniquely.  The staff was so attentive, clearly explaining everything to me, my options and what substitutions they would make.


For dessert, we shared the trio of crème brulees: green tea, brown sugar, and black sesame.  The crowd favorites were brown sugar and black sesame.  Green tea seemed a little too much like spinach.  (Side note: green tea is a very popular flavor in Japan.  Hagen-Daas even makes a green tea ice cream.)

Our dinner at Nobu was the perfect finale to our Japan trip.  A beautiful, delicious meal that kept me healthy.  Success!  While I left Japan without trying many of their staples, I boarded the flight back to the States with a full, and healthy, belly.  You can’t ask for more than that!

Where in the World is Gluten Freedom?

Posted in travel on December 8th, 2010 by Betsy – 6 Comments

Next week I’m going on an adventure…

Click here to find  out what I’m going to be needing eight days from now.  That’s right.  I’m going to Japan.  My mom and I are spending a week with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, who live overseas.  My brother’s navy career has put them temporarily in Japan and I can’t wait to see their new digs.  My sister-in-law, Alden, writes this amazing blog, Wattsabi, about their adventures in Japan so I’ve got a little taste of what is to come in the next week.

While in Japan, we’ll visit Tokyo, Kamakura (where Obama recently visited), and a Japanese hot springs for a night.  And we’ll get to see Rob’s ship as well as stay in their home, near the Yokosuka naval base.  Maybe we’ll even get to ride a few trains.

I’m a little nervous about the food situation in Japan.  (Not while I’m staying at Rob and Alden’s, but when we venture out to restaurants.)  I’m BYOSS (Bring Your Own Soy Sauce), and planning on using the restaurant card and Iphone App that explains Celiac in Japanese.  This is my first trip to a foreign country since my diagnosis, aside from a disastrous trip to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.  So I’m packing snacks and Alden is stocking up on groceries at the Naval Commissary (which she tells me is about the equivalent of a 1980s grocery store: probably no GF bagels or Bob’s Red Mill but they do have Chex and peanut butter).

I have found this blog, which seems to be written by a woman who is gluten-free.  Would love any thoughts or advice people have about international travel. There’s plenty of rice in Japan so I won’t go hungry!

Stay tuned for photos of our Pacific adventure!