Sunday, 15 December 2013

Flour power: gluten-free adventures in India

The frequent disappointment involved in eating out gluten-free means that when you do get a choice of food, you almost become speechless with joy. 'A salad, without croutons! Perfect, thank you so much,' coeliacs say - often without irony - in restaurants across the land.

Tower. Of. Food. Chicken, paneer (cheese) tikka, vegetable jalfrezi, pilau rice, and garlic naan
made with 100% gram flour. 
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
Sometimes, just being able to have a meal out feels like an air-punching victory. So imagine being surrounded by naturally gluten-free choices, and restaurateurs who see substituting out wheat flour as a fairly reasonable request. This was the experience I had eating my way around India.

Peanuts, red onion, coriander and lime juice, perfect cocktail finger food.Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
Gram (chickpea) flour is a standard thickener in a huge number of Indian recipes. Poppadums, dosas (pancakes) and batters are often made up of 100% gram flour. Rice flour and ground rice are also common bases for dumplings and pancakes. As long as you know what you're asking for, eating out in India can be a breeze. It would be easy to assume that a lot of the doughy delights in India are off-limits for coeliacs, but I chowed down on ground rice dumplings, savoury donuts, all manner of curries, pancakes stuffed with spiced potato, and desserts galore. All of them were naturally gluten-free.

Ground rice dumplings (idli) and gram flour donuts, served with coconut chutney and
spicy tomato relish. 
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.
That's not to say it's a wheat-free zone. The dreaded gluten is still out there, semolina is used in some dishes, and some of the sweets are wheat pastry based. So while you'll still have to check with the staff what has gone into that steaming tureen of paneer masala, you can expect to dine extremely well. Grab a language card, go to India, and create some extra notches in your belt. I'm already planning my second trip.

Oh yeah, and rose martinis, espresso martinis and miscellaneous cocktails are
also gluten-free. Hic. 
Image © Anita Isalska. See more on my Flickr page.