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Feb 6, 2014 04:35 PM

Gluten-free dim sum in Toronto? Does this exist?

My husband has recently been diagnosed with celiac, and now has to be extra-careful to avoid gluten. This has put a serious crimp in our regular Sunday dim sum habit - while some things could easily be made gluten-free, we've been staying away from Chinese restaurants under the assumption that everything has likely been cross-contaminated from the soy sauce.

I'm really missing having dim sum in my life, and I was wondering if anyone knows of anywhere in Toronto that does gluten-free dim sum. The only Asian restaurant I have found that advertises that they do gluten-free is the pan-Asian Riz on Bayview, but from what I can tell, they don't do dim sum.

At this point I'm willing to settle for mediocre quality. I'll likely start making some from scratch at home, but that's a big undertaking for me, especially when you want some variety, so I would love to hear if anyone knows of a Celiac-friendly Chinese restaurant! We're downtown (near Queen and Bathurst) but have a car and are willing to travel!

Thanks!! :)

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  1. My friend who is also celiac fills her dim sum cravings with rice rolls with filling, all made at home. You can get the rice rolls at Chinese supermarkets. Chinese restaurants typically are difficult in terms of food allergies - either they don't know what you are talking about and say it's not in it, or they minimize it (as if a little won't hurt). Most dishes will have hidden wheat in the form of prepared sauces. If anyone hears about a real celiac-friendly Chinese resto, I would also love to hear about it!

    1. The generic 'Dim Sum' term comprises of a variety of different offerings.
      For those steamed or fried dishes involving wrappers or skin. They are almost all loaded with gluten due to the type of flours used in making the dough! eg. Shrimp dumplings -Har Gow, BBQ Pork Buns, Egg Tarts, pot-stickers...etc
      Rice rolls, on the other hand uses rice and tapioca flour. Both of which are gluten free and should be safe. So are rice porridge or Congees.
      To play safe, may be just stick with the 'protein' dishes like beef tendons and tripes, spare ribs and chicken feet ...etc!
      Its going to be a real challenge! But you should still get an enjoyable experience by choosing carefully!
      Good Luck!

      3 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        Do they use soy as seasoning in those dishes?

        1. re: szw

          If the use of soya sauce for seasoning is considered to be forbidden territory. Then one can forget almost 95+% of the offerings!
          A few safe dishes I can think of are Rice Congees and fried squid tentacles!
          Even pure protein dishes like the chicken feet, beef balls and steamed spare ribs with black beans....etc uses corn starch and soya seasoning!!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            This is why I was looking for specifically gluten-free restaurants. There just isn't a way to avoid gluten and soy sauce in a Chinese restaurant.

      2. I hear ya, looz. Chinese food and dim sum Sundays were a staple for us forever until my wife was diagnosed Celiac four years ago. She's been to Riz and enjoyed it but there is no such thing as gluten free dim sum. And you can't get by at dim sum by choosing something that doesn't come in buns or wrappers because, as you already know, soy sauce is made of wheat and soy sauce is present everywhere in a Chinese restaurant kitchen.

        1. Wheat starch is used in a lot of dim sum, there are conflicting studies on wheat starch and celiac disease. Some say all of the gluten is processed out of it, other say some remains, although all agree soy sauce has more gluten. I'd say do some research or try cooking at home. We just did a celiac friendly dim sum dinner for my sisters ex pat Chinese students. It won't be as pretty, bit will fulfill the craving!

          1. Thanks so much for the feedback, everyone. Looks like I have some cooking to do!