At Green Gecko, we understand that those wishing to travel to Thailand - or indeed to any country with which they are unfamiliar - can be a daunting thought for coeliacs, or for those who need to observe a strictly gluten-free diet. The relatively low rate of reported celiac disease in Thailand also means that the condition is not widely recognized here, unlike in high celiac rate regions such as Europe and Oceania. This relatively low recognition also means that cross-contamination is an issue, where food stalls and restaurants may prepare purportedly gluten-free meals in the same wok and with the same utensils used for other dishes.
At Green Gecko, we frequently cater to guests with coeliac disease, and prepare both ingredients and utensils accordingly. Simply let us know in advance that you have a gluten-free diet and you will be able to relax during your stay with us.
While travelling in Thailand it is easy to stay away from bread, coated fried foods and egg noodles (choosing rice based noodles instead), and many restaurants or food stalls will consider that avoiding these products will mean they have done their job. There is much less understanding of the fact that wheat or gluten is a very common ingredient of the many sauces that Thai cooks use in almost every one of their dishes. These include sauces such as light soy, dark soy, oyster sauce and mushroom sauce. Happily, fish sauce, or "nam pla", which is used in virtually every dish, is gluten-free in most cases.
Other hidden sources of wheat are sausages, processed meats (such as the locally famous Saikrok Isan or Isan sausages) , and even salads , where ingredients such as Job's Tears may have been used, or commercial salad dressings containing wheat. In addition, roasted or grilled meats such as pork, chicken, duck and beef are often marinated in soy and other sauces before they are grilled.
Gluten-free sauces are however available in Thailand, albeit in larger outlets that offer a greater range of grocery products. In general, gluten-free sauces are more expensive than their counterparts, so tend not to be used in standard food stalls or restaurants. At Green Gecko, we normally use gluten-free sauces from Megachef, a reliable (and tasty!) brand.
A Thai language celiac card can be helpful for some visitors to Thailand who are keen to ensure that dishes served to them will be gluten-free. However, we recommend that you use any such card with caution. Many food stall owners will not be aware, for example, that they are using sauces or curry pastes that contain wheat, and will not have an understanding of cross-contamination. As such, these celiac travel cards in Thai may be more useful to those with a mild gluten intolerance, rather than to those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease.
You can download Green
Gecko's Thailand Gluten-Free Card
here in Thai and English.