Nowadays, it’s all about superfood. Sometimes when you enter a restaurant or a café, you’ll hear someone ask for something with just avocado or almond with it or better yet, the question of gluten-free foods. The idea may sound unappealing to you, especially if you’re an avid foodie, because of the thought that most gluten-free food doesn’t have taste or flavor but this is where most people are wrong. Eating healthy shouldn’t be bland and there’s been a lot of misconceptions when it comes to having a gluten-free diet. Compared to Western cultures, East Asian countries like Japan are less familiar with gluten and is genetically less predisposed towards celiac disease. It’s only until recently that the country became aware of gluten-free eating and where else can you find great eats than in gluten-free Tokyo.
Of course, rice is a traditional staple in Japanese diet and cooking, and gluten is mostly present in Japanese food. Soy sauce has become an enemy to most gluten-free eaters because it contains wheat and most Japanese dishes contain soy sauce one way or another. It could be incorporated or acts as a dipping sauce. However, there’s still a lot of gluten-free Tokyo foods and dishes you can try without having to worry. A few examples are onigiri (rice balls) which don’t contain soy sauce, sashimi and sushi (without the soy sauce so you must avoid ordering unagi), mochi and mochi-based sweets, yakitori (grilled skewers) which are flavored with salt rather than soy sauce, tofu, sweet potatoes, and eggs. One of the most famous gluten-free Japanese food is soba. Soba is made from buckwheat flour and is especially better when made fresh. Some people can’t actually eat food that includes normal wheat because it includes gluten and it triggers allergies. It’s highly suggested to order soba and don’t be afraid to ask the staff or chef when ordering. Avoid ordering ramen, okonomiyaki, tempura, takoyaki, anything dredged with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), soy-sauce based miso soup, and fu (wheat gluten) based dishes. Most restaurants can modify the dishes you order so it can meet the diet that you need and Japanese people are very keen on knowing if you have allergies or diet restrictions.
So where can we find these gluten-free Tokyo foods and dishes? Listed down below are restaurants or cafes which serve gluten-free foods and dishes in Tokyo.
First stop is Soranoiro Nippon (Tokyo Ramen Street, B1F Tokyo Station Ichibangai Street). Now, it’s true that ramen contains gluten but in this ramen-ya, they have one special bowl of ramen goodness which is gluten-free. It’s called vegan vege soba. It’s even recommended by Michelin Guide Tokyo. It may look like another standard bowl of ramen but it sure doesn’t fall short of its taste. This honest to goodness bowl of ramen is exploding with different flavors and textures. You can even add more toppings such as vegetable and the crowd favorite, tofu pieces. You may think that being on a gluten-free diet is no fun until you try their delicious ramen noodles.
If you’re into sweets and can’t get enough of Harajuku crepes, head on to Japan Crepe (1-15-1 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo). All the crepes served here are gluten-free so you don’t need to worry the next time you’re craving for something deliciously sweet. It can satiate your pancake cravings too. Their crepes are filled with fruits and other various fillings which are all healthy. You can choose the flavor that you want and can even create a savory version of crepes. They also serve gluten-free dorayaki (red bean pancake). There’s a lot of choices to choose from and it’s a great place to come to with family and friends.
A rare and definitely one for the books gluten-free Tokyo restaurant is S. Komatsu (7–15–24 Roppongi, Minato-ward, Tokyo). In here, you can have your favorite Japanese dishes and not worry about a thing because everything is gluten-free. Have a taste of their freshly made sashimi and sushi, a mushroom soup served in a teapot, miso grilled white fish, rice with pork and miso soup, and deep-fried goodness tempura. Everything is delicious and healthy. You can order a la carte or if you want surprises, you can order omakase and leave it up to the chef. You won’t definitely go wrong with choosing this gluten-free Tokyo restaurant. And add to that, it’s also incredibly affordable.
Another restaurant which serves gluten-free ramen is Afuri (117 Building 1st floor, 1-1-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku). Upon entering the ramen-ya, you’ll be greeted by the famous vending machine where you can browse and select your chosen ramen dish. The ramen-ya serves one of the lightest yet flavor-packed bowl of ramen dishes in the city and is perfect for vegans, vegetarians, and of course, people who are in their gluten-free diet. You can top your ramen dish with the freshest vegetables available and they also have seasonal ingredients such as sakura (cherry blossoms) and kuri (chestnuts). They also serve spicy ramen dishes during summer and another seasonal ramen dishes to suit your taste. Ramen has always been a staple dish in Japan and Afuri can cater to those needs whether you’re on a strict healthy diet or just want to have a good bowl of goodness.
If you’re into okonomiyaki but is worried about it being not gluten-free, well, Saotome-Ke (135-0046 Tōkyō-to, Kōtō-ku, Botan, 3 Chome−12−8). A typical okonomiyaki dish is made with flour, cabbage, and other ingredients available but in this case, okonomiyaki is made with rice flour. It also has dashi (stock) made from pine nuts, jujube, Chinese wolfberries, and other ingredients marinated in shio koji. Once you take a bite of their okonomiyaki, you’ll be surprised at how crunchy and chewy it is. You can eat it on its own or pair it with the restaurant’s organic wines, which is also good.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.