Traveling with a dairy allergy
Any general suggestions for food while traveling with my 1.5 year old with a severe milk/dairy allergy? We'll be in NY and then driving through New England. Plus we're cheap. I will bring food with us that he can eat, but he's wanting to try everything (good Chowhound tendencies).
I have determined that Indian food is out (too much ghee/yogurt), probably Italian is out, too (too much hidden cheese). I am finding how many surprising things have dairy. Most veggie burgers have milk. So many breads have milk. Why would I eat soy cheese (milk derivative) if I could have dairy?!?
So, I was thinking kosher restaurants might be helpful, at least we'll know there's no dairy in the meat dishes. Asian food is fairly safe (not Thai). Falafel stands are probably fine. He loves meat, but at least at vegan restaurants we'll know that things aren't cooked in butter.
Any other general suggestions for types of places to eat where the kid can try the food, too?
I'm not sure why Thai is bad... coconut milk is grated coconut that has been pressed with water, there's no dairy at all involved. Avoid the sweets, though, they generally have condensed milk in them.
Vietnamese food is also quite dairy-free, though you'll want to avoid the sweets there as well.
Obviously anything that's been battered and deep-fried probably has dairy in the batter, the exception being tempura, which is rice flour and water.
Lebanese food in general is safe, as long as you avoid yoghurt (it's rarely put in anything, usually served as a side dish or a dip).
Peruvian food should be pretty safe -- especially if you stick to saltados and ceviche.
You'll need to be quite careful at Mexican restaurants, but fajitas should be fine -- and tortillas contain no dairy.
Cuisines from countries with a history of lactose-intolerance is ideal. Basically, this covers all of Asia except for India. Japan, China, Vietnam, Thai are all fine. Kosher is also good.
You should get in the habit of asking your server questions about ingredients. If you make it clear that your son has a severe dairy allergy (implying, without stating outright, that a mistake will result in a hospitalization/lawsuit) most places will be accomodating. Avoid Mexican/South American eateries where language barriers could be a problem.
On a side note: be very, very careful with soy. It is not a substitute for dairy despite what soy "milk" producers want you to think. (If we called apple juice apple milk would that make it a milk substitute?) There is a lot of breaking research on health problems associated with soy consumption and you may want to look in to. I would never feed a young child with allergy/immune system problems soy.
I'm not trying to instigate a flame war here, I just want you to know information that may be important to your son's health.
I agree that Asian is a good way to go. Authentic Chinese (that excludes Crab Rangoon) is entirely devoid of milk, wiht the exception of some (Hong Kong inspired) desserts. I wouldn't pay a lot of attention to polemics like Kayla Daniels'. Soy allergies and milk allergies are two separate issues, and you probably know already if your son has a soy allergy.
I also agree with the other poster that you can always ask.
Is it truly a dairy allergy or is your child lactose intolerant?
If the latter is the case then you should know that yogurt contains none of the lactose that triggers the reaction. That's why yogurt tastes sour... the lactose (milk sugar) that was present in the sweet milk has been consumed by those live yogurt cultures.
Also, since ghee is "clarified butter", that means that the milk solids have been taken out-- those milk solids are what would cause the lactose intolerant reaction. Ghee is pure fat, which to my knowledge does not trigger allergies. Even with people who have peanut allergies, they could consume peanut oil because the protein is what triggers the allergy, not the fat)
Lastly, most aged cheeses (parmesan, aged goudas, etc.) contain only trace amounts of lactose. Fresh (or fresher) cheeses like cottage cheese, mozzarella, etc which are still sweet and have not had time for the bacteria to consume the lactose, would be off limits.
Of course I'm not a doctor, just have friends with allergies who have done research (and I've done a little of my own). For the sake of your kid, you should check it out for yourself!
re: Mr. Taster
My son used to get bad hives and a skin rashes when drinking cow milk or eating anything containing dairy. He grew out of it when he was about 2 1/2. This was not intolerance, but an allergy (as it is with most small children).
Also, I believe a lot of yogurt in the US has casein and lactose added back in after the fermentation process and a reduced amount of beneficial bacteria (which helps to counteract the effects of lactose) due to pasteurization... I'm fairly lactose intolerant and was never able to eat most yogurt in the US without the dreaded adverse effects.
Not getting into the soy debate... but when our son was little and we traveled, we used to always carry around tofu 'bricks' as a back up in case we couldn't find anything on a menu. They don't need to be refrigerated and are very easy to cut up into cubes.
You have gotten some great advice about different cuisines however if the allergy is very serious or life threatening your only truly safe bet is get your own food which I know you said you would be doing some of the time. I know from experience that there can be quite a bit of cross contamination in any restaurant setting, especially if you are talking about eating in smaller places with small kitchen like your average Asian/Thai etc place. Even after it was stressed to the server about a threatening peanut allergy a stir fried dish of ginger broccoli ended up with trip to the emergency room. The culprit? They wok had been used to make a dish with peanuts right before they made our broccoli. If butter can cause a huge reaction you can imagine just how many pans in an average Mexican, Italian, Indian restaurants are not cleaned out before the next dish.
One way to assure yourself that no dairy is present is to eat at meat kosher places. Under Jewish law, all forms of dairy can not be used with meat. In the northeast there are many cities and towns with such options. On the downside, many of these places are not known for their food quality or moderate pricing.
I would favor Japanese and Korean myself.