Gluten Free Eating Out In Hong Kong
Living with a gluten intolerant, gluten free (GF) or celiac friend, partner or family member is not always easy. In concert with my own gluten intolerant partner, over the last five years we have created our own list of safe restaurants within Hong Kong. I’ve made all the calls, talked to all the General Managers and made sure at each of these restaurants and cafés that there are safe options for those on a GF diet.
If you have experienced GF yourself or with someone you care about, you can understand that constantly eating plain foods with no sauce, having to ask a myriad of questions repeatedly can be difficult and unpleasant. Despite taking those additional precautions, you may still have uncertainty that your food is safe and/or doubts that staff understand the importance of your requests.
From our years of experience, I have collated a list of restaurants and cafés I consider to be my favourite and trusted places to eat based on these criteria:
Gluten-Free Friendly: These restaurants have staff well educated about issues with gluten and know which options on the menu that can be easily adapted to gluten free. The ‘risk’ here is that dishes are put together in a mixed kitchen environment.
The owner and Executive Chef Vivi Cheung of Dandy’s Organic Café is no stranger in the gluten-free scene. She has been serving gluten intolerant and celiac patrons for years. On her Facebook page, she notes that Dandy’s specifically specialises in gluten free, low fat, low GI and detox diets. The menu has a clear “GF” indicator to help you make an easy choice and have a great list of selections. Waiting staff are also very friendly and educated and know exactly which dishes on the menu are safe. Our favourites include the chicken with pesto or the pork with roasted vegetables.
Where: Ground Floor, 108 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan Tel: 2815 8221
This is the only place we go for Pho and Vietnamese food cravings. All items except the sandwiches are GF and MSG free and clearly labeled “GF” on the menu. This makes it easy when making an order. Absolute heaven for me is the soft shell crab rice rolls. These are not available in any other restaurant due to cross-contamination in the deep fryer. In general, beware when a restaurant says they can offer fried gluten free options. Make sure you enquire that there is a completely separate gluten free fryer; otherwise the food will be cross-contaminated with gluten. Also note that the gluten free and bread making stations are right next to each other in this small kitchen.
Where: G/F, 2 Bonham Strand East, Sheung Wan Tel: 2253 1113/14
This great Halal kebab house has tons of options. All menu items except the kofta are safe with my favourite being the lamb shish with rice. Open late, this is a safe place to get food when most other restaurants are closed.
Where: 27 Hollywood Road, SoHo
25 Mercer Street, Sheung Wan Tel: 2795 2727
4. Little Burro
Serving huge portions, if you are craving a monster burrito, this is the place. For the GF version, ask for the burrito to be made in the bowl without the wrap. Find the online menu here.
Where: 1 Upper Station Street, Sheung Wan Tel: 2547 8821
UGF 30 Hollywood Road, Entrance on entrance on Shelley Street aka Escalator
I love this place! I have spoken to Christopher, the General Manager, who is very passionate about his restaurant. He has taken note that many more customers are requesting gluten free options and has made amendments to his restaurant menu to cater to gluten free patrons. It’s a bonus that all of their pasta sauces are naturally GF and made from scratch. All pasta dishes have a GF option. I’m not sure which gluten free pasta they used, but I could hardly tell the difference to normal wheat pasta. Highly recommended!
Where: 28 Elgin Street, Central Tel: 2577 7160
6. Green Waffle
This western-style breakfast diner has many naturally GF options including egg-based skillets and other dishes, but the true specialty is the gluten free waffles. The waffles are made in a separate waffle iron, so there is no risk of cross contamination. Here is an unofficial menu to this great place that is open all day.
Where: 35-39 Graham Street, SoHo. Tel: 2887 9991
Located just underneath Pure Fitness, Chef May is highly aware of the gluten issue and has created several main, side and salad options with the “GF” indictor. It’s a grab and go and sit and eat establishment with lots of easy GF snacks to purchase, as well. Check out the online menu for exact options.
Where: 2/f Kinwick Centre, 32 Hollywood Road, SoHo Tel: 8199 8189. Other locations are noted on their website.
For more recommendations, and to offer new suggestions on dining spots, please check out our “Eating Out Gluten-Free Map” on the Urban Health website.
If you can’t make it to any of our favourite spots, make sure you do the following to ensure a safe dining experience:
Call ahead! I always call ahead and ask to speak with the manager. Often in Hong Kong the wait staff are not as educated about gluten free or they may be confused about what gluten free means. Ask what flours are used and if any soy sauce or over the counter sauces are used. Be specific about what is okay and what is not okay to eat.
Ask if gluten free dishes are prepared in a separate area. This prevents cross-contamination issues as you don’t want a gluten loaded bread roll on a prep surface before your GF wrap is being made.
Avoid the fryer! Most restaurants only have one deep-fryer. Your food will certainly be contaminated is a wheat-fried fish stick is cooked before any GF food. Ask for your pasta to be made in a clean pot of boiling water.
If you suspect contamination after you eat at the restaurant or experience a reaction, be sure to call and let the manager know. Discuss how the food was obtained, prepared and served. There are many points in the process where contamination can occur, and restaurants can only learn how to do a better job if customers call to discuss the problems afterwards. You will also be helping your fellow GF/Celiac friends and family!
Andy Kun is the CEO and Co-Founder of Urban Health Group Limited; the first in Hong Kong to provide gluten-free restaurant and factory consultation services. They use and provide gluten detection test kits for chefs and quality control officers to provide a fast and accurate method to test gluten level in food, drinks and surface areas to as low as 5 parts per million (5PPM), which is the strictest industry standard. They also aim to bring gluten-free food safety standards in Asia to a whole new level by utilising scientific methods to verify safe gluten levels and to provide staff and customers with the confidence to eat and to produce gluten-free options safely.
Urban Health Home Kitchen is also the first private home kitchen in Hong Kong that hosts 100% gluten-free private dining events and provides chef-to-home private dining parties and cooking workshops. With expertise in gluten-free and allergy-free cooking, Urban Health promotes healthy lifestyles. Check out our online gluten free support group on Facebook: Gluten Free in Hong Kong.