So . . . I have missed actual Chinese New Year, but seen as how the holiday goes on for two weeks in China, I have not completely missed the boat.
Chinese food has always been one of my favourite cuisines – how could it not be with all that rice! However, for a cuisine that does not appear to be overly heavy on gluten on the surface, there is a lot of wheat hidden in it, specifically soya sauce, oyster sauce and shaoxing rice wine. All the things that make chinese food taste so good. And all the things that now make it off-limits.
And don’t get me started on the dumplings. I love dim sum. Those little parcels of delicious-ness. Sadly most of them are made with wheat based pastry / casings. Poo.
Gluten-free soya sauce (tamari) can be found relatively easily, so some dishes, such as sweet and sour, can still be enjoyed, but finding gluten-free versions of other things is not so straight forward.
If you live in the UK, then you can find a gluten-free oyster sauce in my most detested of all supermarkets, Asda. And miracles of miracles it is not in the free-from aisle, but with the rest of the chinese ingredients. Itsu (a selection can be found in Waitrose or Sainsburys or you can shop on-line) have a gluten-free hoisin sauce (not all of their products are gluten-free). And Marks and Spencer carry dim sum that have a casing made from rice rather than wheat. Whoop whoop! And they can be frozen. Triple whoop. Especially as they don’t stock them all year round, so I can stock up when they do appear. Sherry makes a pretty good substitute for shaoxing wine.
1) I know that Wagamama is Japanese rather than Chinese.
2) They are not great at catering for a gluten-free diet. 99% of the time, eating gluten when you know it makes you poorly sick is just not worth it. Very little is worth the pain and discomfort in the long run. However, for me, Wagamama falls into the 1% that is worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating eating gluten when you know it makes you poorly sick and I am not stuffing my face with the stuff on anything like a regular basis. I probably visit Wagamama twice a year. I pick dishes that I think will have the least gluten in them (usually rice based dishes, where it is the soya or teriakyi sauce that will get me), and each visit is accompanied by peppermint tea and peppermint capsules afterwards in order to try to stave off the worst of the effects. I do not walk away unscathed. But . . . seriously, the food is sooooooo good. It is an ultimate treat. One that I am prepared to pay the price for. Some of you may think this is reckless and ludicrous, but I am just being honest.
The dish in question uses oyster sauce and it would have been easy to use the shop bought one I mentioned above. But that doesn’t seem fair if you can’t get a gluten-free oyster sauce wherever in the world you are. So I tried to replicate the flavours in other ways.
PS – If you can get gluten-free versions of Chinese sauces where you are, then please let me know!
The result is not exactly the same. But it is tasty.
Chinese-esque Mushroom Broth with Courgettes and Brown Rice
Serves one person as a main meal or two as a starter
- 500ml of quality chicken stock or a quality chicken stock cube and 500ml boiling water
- 8 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- 1 banana shallot, cut in half lengthways
- 1 tsp tamari (gluten-free soya sauce)
- 2 tsp dry sherry
- Half a medium courgette, cut in half and sliced into approx. 3mm thick pieces
- 1/4 tsp Chinese black rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 80g brown rice
- 350ml cold water
- Pinch of salt
- Handful of fresh coriander
- Place the chicken stock, 5 of the mushrooms (sliced), garlic, shallot, tamari and sherry into a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile wash the rice under a running tap until the water runs clear. Place in a separate saucepan with 350ml cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
- While the broth and the rice are cooking, in a small wok or frying pan heat a tbsp of oil. Fry the courgette slices for approx. 3-4 minutes on each side, until they are browned and soft. Remove from the pan and add the remaining 3 mushrooms (sliced). Cook for approx. 5 minutes until browned and softened. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- When the rice has cooked, drain off any excess water and place in a bowl.
- When the broth has cooked, remove the clove of garlic and as much of the shallot as possible (it will have broken down during cooking so some small bits are inevitable). Add the cooked courgette and mushrooms and heat through.
- Add the black rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil and stir. Taste and add more vinegar / oil / sherry if desired.
- Pour the broth over the rice and scatter over the coriander.