In a country where rice is the grain of choice, who would have thought that living gluten-free would be so tough?
I had never really given this any thought until a couple of weeks ago, when our new, sweet, adventurous, gluten-intolerant ALT arrived. We stopped at a Japanese restaurant for lunch on the way back and all ordered teishoku, naively assuming that Japanese = no wheat. So it was kind of eye-opening for me when the meal was served and I looked at each dish – not only was there breaded fish, but what Japanese food doesn’t contain soy sauce? Our new girl had done her research, and was neither surprised nor bitter, but I guess I was sort of shocked.
Anyway, it’s been kind of an interesting for me to look at food in Japan through a new lense. Fortunately, rice is delicious and readily available here, and rice flour for baking is recently experiencing a boom. But what to do about soy sauce? Most soy sauce is brewed with wheat, and while I remember seeing gluten-free kikkoman at almost every grocery store at home, a survey of our local supermarkets produced no wheat-free alternatives.
I was just about ready to give up when I visited our local AEON supermarket, located in Kahoku. Guess what was mixed in among the soy sauce bottles?
In great, big, easy to read letters “Whole Soybean Soy Sauce That Doesn’t Use Wheat” (komugi wo tsukawanai marudaizu shouyu). Closer inspection of the label reveals that this soy sauce is brewed using only soybeans and salt, so it may be safe for some people who suffer gluten intolerance. At around 300 yen per 500 ml bottle, it’s more expensive than normal soy sauce, but not unaffordable. I haven’t bought any yet, so I’m not qualified to make a flavor comparison, but I’ll be sure to let you know later.
Please note that while this product is wheat-free, it is not processed in a wheat free environment, and may contain small amounts of wheat/gluten that could cause reactions in those who are highly sensitive or are sufferers of celiac disease.
For folks living in Japan who would like to cook Japanese food, this is a great option, but it still doesn’t solve the restaurant dilemma. I’m on the lookout for ideas.
Anyone out there have experience with traveling/living in Japan gluten-free? I’d love to hear your stories.
Updated August 15 – Thank you for your comments!