Saturday, 9 April 2016

Your gluten free guide to Thailand!

Our creations at the Thai Farm Cookery School
Thailand was always going to be a culinary adventure but as a coeliac, I was a little apprehensive. With no language skills or EU allergen labelling to fall back on it could have been very challenging. However, a combination of restaurants cooking everything from scratch and the extremely accommodating people, it proved one of the best places I've ever been for gluten free food. We were there for just over two weeks and went to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. I'll use this blog to give some general tips and some of the stand-out places we ate:

General Tips:
  • Do a cookery class or school. We did one called the Thai Farm Cookery School in Chiang Mai which was fantastic. You learn a lot of the common ingredients in Thai food and therefore what can be made gluten free. 
  • I didn't find the translation cards overly useful. They talk about wheat, barley and rye which isn't overly useful in Thailand. The most common things to avoid are soy sauce, oyster sauce and deep fried pastry type things like spring rolls. 
  • Everywhere we went understood my request for 'no soy sauce / no oyster sauce'. Better still we took our own in little plastic bottles. As everything is made from scratch most places were happy to use my gluten free versions even if they didn't quite understand why!
  • Street food is delicious! Most places rinsed out woks etc. between dishes but you'd have to determine whether you thought that was safe for you. I never had any issues.
  • Supermarkets can be a little tricky. It was very challenging to work out which crisps etc. were gluten free but eating out is so cheap and tasty we didn't need to use them much.
  • Generally curries are gluten free - thai red, yellow, green, penang etc. Stir fries usually contain soy sauce and oyster sauce - either ask for without or take your own. Soups were generally gluten free e.g. tom yum. Rice and rice noodles are popular so you can always substitute any other type of noodle. Pad Thai is made with rice noodles but some add soy sauce, again just ask for it without.
  • Desserts tended to be mango sticky rice or bananas in coconut milk which were both gluten free and delicious!
Where we stayed - Hotel Muse - fantastic boutique style hotel with an infinity pool overlooking downtown Bangkok.
Where we ate -
  • Nahm - for an extra special Thai treat check out this Michelin starred restaurant. Thai food as you've never tasted before. Flavours are ramped up, presentation is spot on and the whole experience is spectacular. We went for the tasting menu and any dishes were modified seamlessly to be made gluten free. The soft shell crab was out of this world!
  • Soul Food - trendy downtown restaurant which did Thai dishes with a twist. Dishes such as red curry with smoked duck and pork cheeks with green peppercorn curry provided a break from the usual. Staff were very clued up and the cocktails washed everything down very nicely.
  • Street food off Koh San Road - first time braving a little cafe style place on the side of the road. Super cheap and tasty so we never looked back!
Street food off Koh San Road
Amazing food at Nahm
Soul Food
Chiang Mai
Where we stayed - Anantara - amazing colonial style hotel looking out over the river. The food and drinks here were amazing too.
More Thai street food from Anusan Market
Where we ate -
  • Lemongrass - doesn't look much from the outside but this was a favourite of ours for lunch. Cheap but ridiculously tasty and they were more than happy to use my soy and oyster sauce to make delicious stir fries and pad thai. Washing it down with a cider was a treat too.
  • Anusuan market - there's a whole host of fantastic street food places in this night market where we ate regularly. There's also a cool bar where local Thai bands play covers - don't miss it!
  • Salsa Kitchen - if you need a break from Thai food this Mexican is great for gluten free options including a dedicated menu. 
  • Whole Earth Restaurant - Set in a traditional Thai house this has an Indian influenced menu common in northern Thailand. Tasty curries alongside classic Thai dishes in a beautiful setting.
Tom Yum soup and cocktails at Anantara
Koh Samui
Where we stayed - Sareeraya - beautiful ocean front hotel in Chaweng Beach. Great food, cocktails and breakfasts. Only downside was they brought me gluten free bread every day which was like a rock! Full marks for effort though.
Where we ate - 
  • Greenbird - has to be one of my favourites. Small place with plastic tables and chairs but incredible authentic Thai food and happy to use my soy and oyster sauce to make incredible dishes like the chilli chicken stir fry and sweet and sour. Brilliant service too, this became a regular lunch spot and we might have even gone twice in one day!
  • There's loads of great places for seafood. They all do different offers - lobsters, prawns, crabs, squid etc. all BBQ'd on searing hot grills.
  • In neighbouring Bophut we ate at an awesome steak place called the Shack run by an American and Irish guy where they imported Australian beef. 
  • For amazing sushi, check out Tai by Red Snapper. They make the most of the fantastic seafood available and were easily able to adapt dishes to ensure they were gluten free.
A holiday favourite - Greenbird
Some of the amazing seafood available in Chaweng
Delicious sushi at Tai by Red Snapper
It was an amazing trip with amazing food. If you're gluten free don't let that put you off, it's easy enough to navigate and you certainly won't be disappointed.


  1. I loved Thailand. I got customized translation cards made before my trip which better explained gluten in Thai food as well as my shellfish allergy. I found the generic cards too confusing for the Thai people.

    This post makes me want to go back!

    1. Thanks! Glad you liked it. I really want to go back too, the food was incredible, but there are so many other places to visit too!

  2. even i am thai, it's a bit difficult to explain to other thais sometimes lol
    i found this card is easy to understand and useful, you may use this one next time :)

  3. Thank you for this post! I am headed to Thailand soon and cannot wait. I'm heading to the few 100% gluten free spots in Thailand and excited to check out other places as well. Thank you for this great list!