Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Gluten Free cooking in China

After grieving the loss of homemade bagels and pumpkin spice coffee creamer sent lugged in suitcases, I decided to put on my big girl pants and learn to cook gluten free in China. I could almost live on bread alone, so this has been quite a journey for me and my stomach. About a year and a half ago my stomach took an early retirement from all the things I was feeding it-straight up packed a bag and moved south. After exiting denial, I found that I've really enjoyed eating GF now. Doing this in China can be tricky, but not impossible. You just don't have to opportunity to spend $85 on a loaf of gluten free bread. You simply have to make it. 

A few of my favorite websites:

Tons of recipes that are relatively simply. I’ve been using sunflower seed oil instead of grapeseed oil (or any of the other specialty oils she uses) and it’s worked fine. I actually use sunflower oil for all my cooking. I noticed a huge improvement in my stomach issues when I switched oils. Even olive oil was causing me issues. I can find sunflower seed oil locally, but if you can't, I linked it to TB. 

Lots of Indian recipes. Friend, she even has one for paleo Naan. I'm gonna name a house plant after this woman. We’ve been into curries lately, and her website is a definite go to for us. 

There are millions of great GF websites now. These are just the two I've been using lately. Really and truly, once I got used to cooking this way, I’m able to take standard recipes and make them GF pretty easily. 

Here’s the almond flour I get off TB:

This is for about a 3 cup bag. I just order 6 at a time and they’ve stayed fresh for awhile. I usually use them within a month and have had no problems with them going bad. When we were in the States last fall, I used Honey Mill almond flour. This flour is a little denser, but still works great. 

I also like to use buckwheat flour (荞麦粉 qiao2 main fen3)It has a little bit of a nutty flavor, but it binds really well. I failed miserably with a buckwheat bagel because I put more buckwheat than almond flour. If you add too more buckwheat than other flours, your bagel will taste like shoelaces. Trust me. 

Almond flour is pretty pricey, so I usually try and cut the almond flour with another type of flour. When you’re cooking for 7, I can’t justify spending 100 kuai making muffins. But cutting the almond flour with buckwheat has been a good cost saving shortcut. I have a local friend who can bring it to me, but I imagine you can buy this on TB. It imagine you might be able to find it locally as it’s a pretty common flour in Asia. 

I’ve also cut recipes with millet flour (小米分 xiao3 mi3 fen3), sweet potato starch (use in small amounts 地瓜粉 did gua1 fen3), corn flour (玉米粉 yu4 mi fen3. Some places, this word is also used for cornstarch. You just have to look at the color and texture ), mung bean flour (绿豆粉 lv4 dou4 fen3)。 All of these I’ve found at local stores pretty easily. Mung bean flour also binds well, but has a little bit more of a beany flavor, so I just don’t add as much. Try and look for the character 纯 (chun2), as it will let you know that the flour is pure. I haven't found that to always be the case, but for the most part, it's accurate. Oftentimes these flours will be mixed with wheat flour or they will be almond flavored wheat flour. The Chinese words can be the same, which can get a little tricky. The 纯 character should help clear some of that up. 

When I make pancakes I use corn flour 2/3 and buckwheat flour 1/3 together. and they’ve turned out wonderfully. I throw in several mashed bananas, some eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, sometimes a little coconut milk and mix it into a batter. I have conformity issues, so very rarely do I stick to a recipe. It's a life long issue, I'm working on it. Kinda.

Soy sauce:

This is the bummer one with living here. But with these two sauces, I’ve really been able to make anything involving soy sauce. It made me super happy the day I found these on TB. I vividly remember sending texts to several people telling them what I found. These are both really big bottles. I do a lot of Chinese cooking, so I order a bunch at a time. They do have smaller bottles in the Braggs.  

Liquid Aminos. A lighter soy sauce flavor. 

  Tamari GF soy sauce. A little darker.

Tapioca Flour. (木薯淀粉  mu4 shut dian4 fen3) time I ordered a Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca flour Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour and loved it, but it’s too pricey. This one below is really more like a starch. You can find these at local stores pretty easily. I ordered this one on TB, but most of the time I just buy locally. Sometimes I use this as a filler, but only in small amount. It can make things a little pastey if you add too much. 

I’ve loved learning to cook with coconut milk. We’ve learned how to make awesome coffee ice cream. I also use it in my curries and add it to pancake batter to add some good fats. This TB store seems to be much cheaper than other places I’ve seen. 

Coconut flour:

I loved this flour. You pay a pretty price for that love though. All the other coconut flours I’ve found are more like coconut powdered drink. Because the Chinese is the same, it can be a ton of hit and miss finding these flours. 

Flaxseed (golden flaxseed: 黄金亚麻籽 huang2 jin1 ya3 ma2 zi3)

I just stick these seeds in my blender and turn them into flour. If you’ve ever cooked with whole wheat, think a similar texture when using flaxseed flour. It’s pretty coarse, so you don’t want to use a bunch. (you might already know all of these little suggestions. If so, just ignore me and take the links :) )You can sometimes find flaxseed at a local store that sells grains.

Both flaxseed and chia seed (soaked and ground) are good for binding things. This can be helpful as one of my daughters has an egg allergy. But sometimes you have to rely on science and use these egg replacers. They are gluten free, wheat free, no preservatives, artificial flavorings, sugar, or cholesterol because they are all chemicals. Awesome.

I would love to use chia seeds, but I haven’t found them affordable yet. I’ll let you know if I do.The tricky thing about GF baking is the binding. You can use Xanthan Gum to help it too, but I've found I don't often use it. 

Our whole family enjoys eating this way now. It took a little bit for me to learn how to cook so that my kids didn’t feel like they were missing out on everything. But now, they really do love it and even comment on how yucky they feel if they do eat wheat at a friend’s house. It really is hard at first, but stick with it. You will get there. Promise :)

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