Four days in, Cambodia has completely stolen my heart. The people and the temples are both beautiful and Siem Reap has been my favourite spot on our adventure so far. Despite this, Cambodia gets a lot of bad press on the Internet when it comes to staying gluten free, so (as always) I thought I’d enter the debate!
As a coeliac, avoiding wheat, gluten and barley are vital. Asian food is normally rice based, meaning it is naturally gluten free. That said, soy sauce isn’t and makes up an awful lot of Thai dishes, so things are not as simple as they may seem.
My solution? When staying in Chiang Mai, a lovely lady helped me translate my allergies to show staff in restaurants and night markets. She explained that the cards I’d downloaded from the Internet were translated very formally, making staff feel quite nervous serving me in restaurants. However you manage to find the translation, I really recommend showing a card, piece of paper or screenshot of this when eating out. Although it feels awkward the first few times, this is honestly the best way to get around and avoid allergic reactions.
When it comes to Cambodia, the food is not too different, but has a mix of Indian and Vietnamese influences. Without any Khmer cards to explain my allergies, I was worried as to what was to come, yet have been more than pleasantly surprised.
I’ve found a lot of the restaurant staff speak English and understand ‘no soy sauce’ (even if they don’t get why I’m being so picky). Stick to fried rice dishes, fresh spring rolls (not fried) and papaya salads and you’ll be fine. It’s worth noting, curries sometimes contain soy for flavouring, so always mention it even if the meal sounds safe.
My top picks? For authentic Cambodian cuisine, the staff at Lim King Cheng are wonderful and the food is the best I’ve tasted so far (and probably the cheapest too). Alternatively, for healthy, organic dishes, head to Sister Srey Cafe. With a clearly labelled menu, clued up staff and a great backstory, I could eat there everyday and not get bored. I’d also really recommend going on a cookery course, or steet food tour if you are ever unsure on what dishes are safe.
So, for all those nervous coeliacs planning a visit to Cambodia, I can only say in my experience, there’s nothing to worry about – I hope this helps!