Hitoshi and I were asked to make a Japanese dinner for New Year’s Eve.
My friend and one of our guests has gluten intolerance. The real deal.
I’m skeptical with the whole gluten-free thing. If you have an allergy to gluten or celiac disease or something else along those lines, that makes sense to me. Otherwise, I figure it’s a trend. This meant that I didn’t know much about gluten-free foods.
Along with food dislikes, other allergies and restrictions with salt and raw egg amongst the other guests, Hitoshi and I had our work cut out for us.
Things to watch out for cooking gluten-free Japanese food
If you are asked to prepare a gluten-free Japanese meal and have no clue where to start, you’re not alone. Hitoshi and I had no idea either. But we learned a few tips.
Shoyu or Japanese soy sauce – luckily gluten-free versions exist but finding them might be a challenge and they aren’t cheap. Try organic or whole food stores. We found that Kikkoman makes a gluten-free Japanese soy sauce that may be at more mainstream grocery stores.
Mirin – if a bottle does not say gluten-free, carefully check the ingredients. We didn’t think ours would be a problem. Mirin is usually rice wine with sugar and sometimes salt. Unfortunately, we discovered our mirin is more of a mirin “seasoning” and has malt in it. Malt is not gluten-free!
Sake – sake should be fine. It’s supposed to only be rice wine but you never know. Check the label.
We did our best to accommodate everybody and have enough food for a family style meal where dishes were laid out on the table and people helped themselves.
- turkey and turkey/kimchi gyoza – this was not gluten-free due to the wrappers but we got around the pork dislike with the turkey. We bought the kimchi and the rest was from scratch.
- unagi maki (eel rice rolls) – this was bought from a local restaurant and deemed to be safe
- udon fish-based (bonito) soup – this was made from scratch with gluten-free shoyu and real bonito flakes from Japan. Once we discovered our mirin was not gluten-free, we skipped it. We cooked gluten-free rice noodles for our gluten-free guest. The rest of us had regular Akita-style udon noodles.
- simmered fatty pork belly on rice – this fabulous dish boiled on the stove for six hours. We made it from scratch and used gluten-free shoyu.
- chicken yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) – Another guest made this and substituted gluten-free shoyu in the sauce.
- Caesar salad – I have no fear mixing food types! I adapted a very basic recipe to make it egg and gluten-free. We kept the croutons separate as we didn’t have gluten-free ones.
- Finger veggies – cut up mini cucumbers, celery and grape tomatoes
- Fresh fruit – berries, melon and other delights
- Greek desserts – my friend’s mom brought a wild and delicious selection of homemade treats. My friend knew which ones to avoid.
I’ll get to these over the next month or so. Stay posted!
With some research and sticking with simple recipes with as few ingredients as possible, we put together a meal that was tasty and safe for all.
Thankfully the Japanese dishes didn’t have a lot of gluten in them to begin with other than Japanese soy sauce. If you’ve got access to gluten-free soy sauce though, you’re set.
Have you adapted a meal or a dish to make it edible for someone with dietary restrictions? How did it go (or not)?