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Disclaimer: This post is more so about how to avoid and limit potential exposure to foods containing Gluten/Wheat products rather than how to guarantee that the foods you are eating are 100% gluten free.
Being on a strictly gluten free path since July 2016, I was worried of how I would survive one month in Korea. The main reason for me being gluten free was because the gluten was horrendously affecting my teeth; there are many studies that people who suffer from Celiac Disease, who eat eating gluten containing foods, have higher rates of tooth decay: Google it. My side effects originally started as an eczema rash when I was 18 that continued to grow the longer I kept Gluten in my diet. It took me about 5 years to figure out why I had eczema that would never go away – no matter how many steroid creams I would use (which permanently thinned out my skin urghhh TT), it kept coming back the moment I stopped with the creams. So as the eczema progressed into tooth decay (thinned out my teeth primarily, and caused cavities) at every exposure of gluten containing food I had, the only choice for me was to embrace a strictly gluten free lifestyle. Which – really took about half a year to implement the lifestyle change.
So now you can understand why the thought of how I would survive Korea plagued my mind; my teeth were on the line. But if you are reading this, I’m sure gluten has had a negative impact on your life as well and you are finding out how you can enjoy your travels as safe as you can. I hope that this post offers you some reassurance and direction on your journey!
If you are a complete newb at how to live gluten free and you yourself are at the beginning of your journey, these are some things that you should religiously follow and know as a rule of thumb:
“SAFE”: Corn, Rice, Dairy – Milk and Yogurt, Eggs, Vegetables, Meat, Thai, Mexican, Indian, Korean traditional foods. Do your research tho!
“Red Zone”: Soy Sauce, Breads, Pastries. Basically everything “American” – Pizza, Burgers, Bagels, Cookies, Beer.
Now being in the Western world, I feel that people are slowly learning about and embracing the gluten free lifestyle. That means it’s now easier than ever to go to a supermarket and find gluten free foods, gluten free cookies, and gluten free bread or order a Gluten Free pizza at your local (NY) pizza shop haha!! Nothing like NY pizza and bagels – although finding a “to die for” gluten free pizza is one of lifes hardest challenges thus far. BUT I will say that embracing the gluten free lifestyle has served as a positive change for me because most things that contain wheat are unhealthy, typically junk food related, and cause tooth decay! For any of you asking, I have now been transitioning to a LCHF Ketogenic diet. Those carbs and sugars tho. Urgh im a sucker TT. I’m still working on solidifying this new lifestyle change. I understand how difficult it can be to make the food transition, first being vegan, gluten free, now LCHF Keto. Recommended book: Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel.
Back to Korea. I feel that many Koreans aren’t aware of the gluten free lifestyle – or even Veganism for that matter – at least compared to those in western countries. However in my opinion, Korean culture doesn’t put as big of an emphasis on wheat as the western world does. It was surprisingly easier to find foods that had a high chance of being “Gluten Free.” Not certified folks.
“Well, Why don’t you ask?” You might be saying.
If you ask the majority of waiters in America, I’m almost positive they will stare at you like doe and rush off to the kitchen to google what gluten free is or come back saying, “uh, yes our burger buns with lots of wheat and flour are gluten free” while you suffer nasty side effects that night lol. So even if I had asked Korean people if something contains gluten, I’m sure the stares will be even more so! Therefore I chose to use my best judgment! OR I ask certain questions (more so in Western countries where they understand english – since I’m no fluent in Korean mofo haha!) For example, “does this contain only corn” (corn tortilla chips- at a bar for expats in Korea.) Specific questions that can easily be answered. Cause ain’t no body knows what you talkin ’bout Willis LOL!
America vs Korea:
Going to 7 Eleven in America, everything has wheat in it. Want an egg sandwich? Want a tuna sandwich? Pizza? Chocolate bars? Hotdog?? Ok.. looks like i’m going with the tea for breakfast, rush to work an 8 hour wedding (that only serves food drenched in wheat! IT’S SHOCKING that almost every event and wedding I work – pasta, or salad with croutons or breaded chicken is the norm urghhh)!! Also throwing in the Yankees game with thousands of fans and no gluten free accomodated foods lulz. It’s a sad world, but I diverge. It just goes to show you how dependent western culture is to wheat and gluten lol!
In Korea, their 7 Eleven and variations of the quick stop shop have a lot more foods that you can eat. Why? Rice is more of a “staple” than wheat over there. So getting 김밥, Kimbap is basically a sushi roll or onigiri(japanese) a triangle shape. Tuna kimbap, or egg kimbap, beef kimbap, or chicken kimbap was basically my go to (and CHEAP.. yay) meal of the day. Traveling to Korea is not for the vegan or closed minded haha – by that I mean it’ll be very difficult to stick to your lifestyle. Even myself, coming from 8 months of veganism, didn’t fully incorporate beef or pork back into my diet *until* I went to Korea. Food is a group thing in Korea. And beef and pork is a staple over chicken. You go to eat with a group and you share the food. One of my hostel roomies (I believe vegetarian or vegan) came to that cold hard truth early on – at least for her trip anyways haha! So if you aren’t eating your pork or beef and don’t have the stomach for it – I strongly advise you do!! Incorporate these meats BEFORE you go to Korea so your body can have time to know how to break the meat down properly LOL!!! Oh the horror!
Sushi/triangle Roll – Gimbap – 김밥
Pork soup – dwaeji gukbap (돼지국밥).
Korean BBQ – gogigui (고기구이) – grilled pork or beef.
Mixed rice – Bibimbap (비빔밥) – vegetarian
Pork feet – jokbal (족발) surprisingly good and different.
Chicken feet – dak bal (닭발) never had lol
Spicy chicken stew – dakdoritang ( 닭도리탕) HEAVENLY!!!!!!!!!