For celiacs, Chinese restaurants are big caution zones, since soy sauce is brewed with wheat. Also, most egg noodles, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, imitation crab and mock meat substitutes (like mock duck) contain gluten.
Some accommodating Chinese restaurants will prepare entrees without soy sauce, or they may agree to cook with gluten-free soy sauce that you bring in. But cross-contamination is still an issue, so make sure to ask the staff to prepare your food in a clean pan with clean utensils. Dining cards from Triumph Dining, written in Chinese (and other languages) and tailored to specific cuisines, provide an extra measure of safety.
Luckily, some gluten-free soy sauce substitutes are available. San-J wheat-free tamari, certified gluten-free, is the choice in our house. La Choy soy sauce is also gluten-free, though it does contain more processed ingredients.
In our old neighborhood, we were fortunate to find a Chinese restaurant that prepared food without soy sauce for us. We’d routinely order cashew chicken (cooked with a little chicken broth and salt) and corn egg-drop soup.
When we moved, I wanted to make gluten-free corn egg-drop soup that we could enjoy at home. I was surprised at how easy it was. Cream-style corn (which is non-dairy, despite the “cream” in its name) gives the soup body, and whole kernels of corn add to the texture. Silky threads of egg stream through the soup like ribbons. The result: a velvety egg drop soup, enhanced by sweet nuggets of corn, just like in our favorite Chinese restaurant.
Chinese Corn Egg-Drop Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 (14.75 ounce) can cream-style corn
1/2 cup whole corn kernels, either fresh, frozen or canned
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 green onion, chopped
- 1. In a large pot, heat olive oil briefly over medium heat, add onion and cook until onion is translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Add broth, cream-style corn and drained whole-kernel corn to pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and then reduce to a simmer.
3. Place cornstarch in a small bowl, add cold water and whisk with a fork to combine, getting rid of any lumps. Add cornstarch mix to the simmering broth and stir well.
4. Stir in ginger, salt and white pepper.
5. With a fork, whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Slowly stir the soup in a circular motion, and slowly pour the egg into the moving soup. Using a fork, stir the egg lightly through the soup to produce egg strands.
6. Allow the soup to thicken slightly for 3 or 4 minutes before turning off the heat. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with chopped green onion.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings