In my constant quest for gluten-free Asian food, I often turn to dishes from Thailand or Vietnam. Since Southeast Asian cuisines are more dependent on fish sauce (often called nam pla or nuoc mam) than wheat-heavy soy sauce, many traditional foods can be enjoyed without substitution.
This isn’t to say you should let your guard down when ordering Thai or Vietnamese food: Oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, yellow bean sauce, Maggi seasoning, sweet soy sauce, wonton skins, and more can still contain gluten. But many of may favorite dishes, including vibrant chopped meat salads with toasted rice powder (larb) and rich, fragrant curries are often naturally gluten free.
Curry paste is one of those ingredients that should be gluten free–after all, it’s just a combination of aromatics such as Kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallot, dried chiles, and spices–but you always need to double check that it actually is gluten free. You could certainly make it yourself, an easy way to vouch for its contents. But no matter how remarkably fragrant and flavorful it tastes, my ambitious plans result in homemade red curry paste only a few times a year. In the meantime, I grab some from the grocery store.
Wait, a grocery store? Don’t you need to go to an Asian market to find curry paste? Nope. I’ve been seeing more and more gluten-free ingredients in the “Asian section” of regular grocery stores. My favorite brand of red curry paste, Thai Kitchen, is pretty readily available. A Taste of Thai also offers gluten-free curry paste. Mae Ploy, a brand you’re more likely to see at Asian markets, does not list any gluten-containing ingredients, though their label isn’t specifically marked “gluten free”. Use at your discretion.
I use purchased curry paste to whip up quick marinades for chicken or fish kebabs. Sometimes I alternate cubes of pineapple, zucchini, and bell pepper on the skewers as well. Not the most authentic Thai recipe, perhaps, but certainly the makings of a simple, tasty meal.