Chinese_GlutenFreeGluten-free Chinese food is hard to come by since traditional soy sauce has gluten. P.F Chang’s has a gluten-free menu (we will be reviewing it soon), but recently we decided to try something that wasn’t a chain. Wok and Roll on Sheridan Drive in Williamsville has a separate gluten-free menu. There were cheers of joy at our house when it was discovered. We called to order takeout. We had some trouble communicating with the woman on the phone, who did try very hard to get our order right. Soon after we ordered though, the restaurant called to say that was the “new girl” and they wanted to confirm some things about the order. I really appreciated that – I hate getting a bag of takeout home and realizing it’s not what I ordered!

The gluten-free items were hand-marked “GF” on the lids, which was an important touch I thought.

We ordered vegetable fried rice, which was confirmed as “no meat.” This was just ok. It didn’t have a lot of veggies in it, but there was nothing bad about it. The ginger chicken and broccoli was just chicken and broccoli – not a trace of ginger detectable to my palate, which left it blander than I had hoped. This came with plain white rice to serve over. Then there was the vegetable lo mein. The GF menu clearly lists lo mein as an option. When the restaurant called back to confirm though, I was told lo mein cannot be gluten-free. I asked why it was on the menu and was told I can have the lo mein sauce, but they will use chow mein fun noodles since those are gluten free. I didn’t have a problem with this, but just wish the menu could be clearer so you could know what your choices are. This dish was mostly rice noodles with a very scant amount of vegetables. It was disappointing.

The gluten eaters at our table had mixed reviews on their food – one proclaimed the spring rolls and sesame chicken very good, while the other gave it a total thumbs down.

I also suspect there was a lot of MSG in this food. I got a classic Chinese restaurant headache from it (hits within 1 hour of eating) which happens very rarely to me.

Overall I would say this didn’t satisfy our yearning for GF Chinese food as much as it could. Everything was bland with very few ingredients. If someone could offer me a GF eggroll, wonton, and fortune cookie, I would be a happy camper, but alas, that’s not available yet.

 

Here’s a recent piece about gluten-free dining in Toronto, if you’re headed north.

Pizza

Pizza

In my quest for a good GF pizza, I realized that Pizza Plant offers a gluten free menu on Wednesdays at its Transit Road location and Saturdays at its Main Street (Walker Center) location.  The menu is not huge, but it has key items to help the GF feel not so deprived.

We ordered the GF pizza which comes only in medium, but this crust is definitely made in-house and is not the prefab crust on an aluminum tray you get elsewhere. I had high hopes. The pizza was cold when we got it home and the cardinal rule of GF breads is to always eat them hot, so we heated it up. It was still not anything I want to eat. The crust had a big of that soggy, crumbly texture. The pizza itself could have used a lot more sauce. We had mushrooms and spinach

Lasagna

Lasagna

as toppings.

We also tried their GF chicken fingers which we give high marks. You can order them at any hotness level you like, but we got plain. They were crunchy and satisfying.

We tried the GF Jimbrone Lasagna. It is made with penne however and has hamburger and sausage. This wasn’t lasagna – it was baked penne. But it was good. The noodles tasted like regular pasta. the sauce was flavorful and there was lots of meat. It had a crunchy browned cheese topping. The portion size was huge – it would easily feed four. We have to quibble with the accompaniments though. I had a long conversation with my order taker about the salad that was supposed to come with it and he indicated which dressings were GF (I chose the house creamy garlic). When we unpacked our order, we had no salad, but instead there was a small container of broccoli. There was also a mysterious roll. We weren’t told that bread came with our GF items and

Chicken fingers

Chicken fingers

since we ordered gluten items for the kids, there was no way to be sure what it was. Into the trash it went.

We used to love Pizza Plant for their pizza pods. In fact, I don’t think I ever ordered anything else there in the many years we went. If they can make a GF pizza crust, why can’t they use it to make their signature pod? If they added GF pods the menu, we would be back in a heart beat.

 

hoisinOne of my signature special occasion dishes is Peking Chicken, a version of Peking Duck. I’ve been making it for years and it is a family favorite. A whole chicken is roasted at high heat and glazed with a wonderful sauce. I make thin scallion pancakes and create a sauce from the pan drippings. It’s rich and delicious. When I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant, I thought I would never eat it again (I think I had an entire week of mourning over all the things I thought I would never eat again), since the sauce is made with soy sauce and hoisin. Gluten-free soy sauce is a pretty common find these days, but I had no hope for the hoisin.

On a whim, I looked to see what substitutes I could find and I stumbled on Joyce Chen’s Gluten-Freepeking chicken Hoisin at the grocery store. I bought 4 bottles of it because I was so excited! I made my Peking Chicken recipe for my husband’s birthday dinner. I didn’t even think to taste the sauce and stupidly assumed it would taste like my regular hoisin. Unfortunately, it didn’t and the lovely sauce that makes this dish so divine tasted like vinegar because of it. I hurriedly doctored my sauce by adding more honey, soy sauce and cornstarch and got it to the point where it was ok, but it was not the same. I then tasted the hoisin straight from the jar and realized it is incredibly sour and vinegar-y. I’m disappointed in this brand and will be looking for another option for future dishes. It’s usable, but needs a lot of sweetener to counterbalance it.

You can find my Peking Chicken recipe here. Substitute GF soy sauce and GF hoisin (hopefully you can find another brand!).  For the pancakes, Cup4Cup flour worked well, but needed just a bit more liquid to loosen the batter up.

CarrotCake_Easter-3-31-2013-7-43-07-PM-edited-300x225My all-time favorite carrot cake is Gigi’s Carrot Cake, from Emeril.  This is a to die for carrot cake! It’s dense and moist and also just really pretty.

I used Cup4Cup gluten free flour in place of regular flour and it was not noticeable in any way. The recipe says to make 3 layers – I have always made this cake with 2 layers (who has 3 identical cake pans?). If you make this, there is just barely enough frosting, so you might consider making a bit more  (I would make 1 1/2 times this recipe so you don’t feel like you have to skimp. The recipe says to add chopped pecans to the frosting, but I prefer to just sprinkle some on top.CarrotCakeSlice2-3-31-2013-7-45-42-PMedited-300x225