Indian food allergies?
May 12, 2009 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Which Indian restaurant dishes never have wheat or dairy (or corn or eggs)?

I have seriously annoying but not dangerous food allergies to wheat, dairy, eggs, and corn. I know cream is in a bunch of Indian dishes, but I've also had some amazing Indian food that hasn't given me any problem at all. (Trace amounts of allergens don't seem to cause a reaction for me, i.e. as long as it's not an official ingredient.)

Can you help me compile a list of the "types" of dishes that I can eat? (e.g., if the dish has X in the name or it's cooked in way Y, then it's definitely safe. If it has Z in the name, then it's cooked with cream, etc...)
posted by zeek321 to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
we eat a lot of Indian food in our vegan household. with recipes from the authentic Indian cookbook: replace cream/dairy with soy cream, and simply eliminate any egg from the recipe. and Sarah Kramer has some good Indian recipes in her vegan cookbooks.
posted by RedEmma at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2009

zeek321: are you looking for dishes you can safely order in a restaurant, or dishes you'll be able to cook at home?
posted by alms at 7:02 AM on May 12, 2009

Do you have allergies, or intolerances? Big difference. For instance, I'm lactose- and fructose-intolerant, but large amounts of either won't kill me (they'll just make me feel so bad that I'll wish I was dead!).

I love Indian food but find it tricky because of the large amounts of ghee (clarified butter) used in cooking. It's in just about everything in restaurants. Although I LOVE Indian food, I've gotten to the point where the only dishes I can handle are the tandoori dishes without sauce - tandoori chicken (or fish or lamb) and chicken tikka. They are typically prepared with a yogurt marinade, but the lactose in yogurt is minimal. So, you might be able to handle those, along with some mint chutney for flavor.
posted by chez shoes at 7:08 AM on May 12, 2009

zeek321: are you looking for dishes you can safely order in a restaurant, or dishes you'll be able to cook at home?

Restaurant--My workplace is looking for a bunch of dishes that I'll eat too for our lunch meetings.
posted by zeek321 at 7:09 AM on May 12, 2009

Mulligatawny recipes vary wildly, but I don't think I've ever seen one with wheat or dairy or eggs in it. Corn, though, isn't unheard of.
posted by box at 7:12 AM on May 12, 2009

Do you have allergies, or intolerances?

I'm not lactose intolerant. No stomach trouble. I just get really spaced out, with swollen sinuses and/or swollen tonsils for twenty-four hours to freaking five days. I've replicated this a couple times for each ingredient above.
posted by zeek321 at 7:13 AM on May 12, 2009

Thanks for the careful questions and suggestions so far. So to get back on track: I'm looking for

1. Catered Indian restaurant dishes (easy for a group),
2. Without modifications (so they're easy to order and everyone else gets the dish they expect), and
3. That do not contain wheat, dairy, corn, or eggs.
posted by zeek321 at 7:20 AM on May 12, 2009

All kinds of dal (chickpeas, lentils, split peas) should be okay, though there are probably some recipes that use ghee instead of oil. I suspect you can just ask for it to be made with oil.
posted by parudox at 7:23 AM on May 12, 2009

Unfortunately the restaurant you are probably going to eat at probably is more Northern Indian, because Southern Indian does have some good options because it's more rice and coconut based rather than dairy and wheat based, though there are of course lots of intersections. It's just that there aren't too many Southern Indian restaurants compared to their northern cousins.

I generally do not consume those ingredients either, but I've found a bunch of Southern Indian places in my town. I usually order masala dosa or idli. Kanji vada, sambar, masala sev, and several other dishes I have had are also typically free of these ingredients.

In a northern restaurant you could try to get a Biryani without yogurt.

But hey, you might be able to get your work to order from a Southern Indian place. I found Dosa in Krakow. They are sooooooooooo delicious.
posted by melissam at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2009

South Indian cuisine tends to favor rice over wheat, and doesn't have the large dairy component of gujarati and mughlai cuisine, so dosa and idli should be fine; I don't think it's likely that a restaurant would be cooking dosa in ghee, but it couldn't hurt to ask.
posted by kid_dynamite at 7:36 AM on May 12, 2009

Eggs and corn are used minimally in Indian dishes (at least the dishes you'll find at restaurants). Wheat is used mainly for naans/breads, samosas, and possibly for pakoras (though the MAIN ingredient in these should be besan, or gram flour). Your biggest problem will be dairy: most meats/chickens are marinated in yogurt, some dishes have added cream for richness, and most dishes are cooked in or have added ghee (clarified butter), which is added for flavour. However, ghee is expensive and artery-clogging, so it's not necessarily going to be used for every dish. I would check with the restaurant and find out if they use ghee as their "normal" cooking oil; they may not, or they may use it in small quantities as a "garnish". In this case, safe dishes would include most vegetables and dals (lentils) as they'd be cooked in vegetable oil.

Raita is a yogurt chutney. Also, anything with the word "malai" is a red flag (malai means cream). Korma dishes usually have cream or yogurt added to the gravy. North Indian dishes are heavy on cream; south Indian are generally not. You'd probably be fine eating many south Indian dishes like dosa, vada, idli (all these are made with ground lentils) with sambar (a tomato-based soup that accompanies them).

Vegetarian rice dishes like biryani and pulao should be very safe, although in a restaurant there is a chance they'd be garnished with ghee. (It's just like in Western restaurants where they add butter to everything, even stuff you'd never add it to add home). The meat in meat-based rice dishes would be marinated in yogurt.

Kebabs made with ground beef/chicken/lamb should most definitely be safe. They don't have added yogurt because they'd fall apart while cooking.

Source: IAI. However, please remember these are general guidelines and restaurants can do whatever they want. The best advice I can give you is ask the restaurant.

Now I'm hungry! Have fun eating :)

On preview, some of my points have already been mentioned. But I'm too lazy to go back and edit.
posted by yawper at 7:45 AM on May 12, 2009

Evil Mad Scientist to the rescue - South Indian Restaurant Menu Decoder Ring
posted by mincus at 7:49 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone! I'm still watching this thread.
posted by zeek321 at 8:05 AM on May 12, 2009

Aloo Gobi (potatots and cauliflower) and Aloo Chana Chat (potatoes and chickpeas, sometimes called just "Chana Chat") are two similar, tasty dishes that are available at any Indian restaurant.
posted by mkultra at 8:27 AM on May 12, 2009

« Older Packing and stressing   |   AMAZING SNOT EATING DAUGHTER Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.