Gluten-Free Trip Report on Korea from Angela Sommers (with Tutorial on Which Korean Dishes Are Gluten Free)

Angela Sommers, gluten freeIn mid-December of 2011, I received an email from a new reader, Angela Sommers. Angela had recently been diagnosed as gluten intolerant. She wanted to know how to get started living gluten free. I immediately sent Angela a link to my Getting Started page (which has several printable tip sheets, like 50 Things You Can Eat Today, 50 Meals That Are GFE, 50 GFE Sweet Treats, and more), and a link to my post Top 10 Reasons to Live GFE.  When she inquired on my favorite and best recipes, specifically requesting a great gluten-free pound cake recipe, I sent her several of my most popular recipes. I focused on the ones that I felt let the gluten-free newbie know that “all is going to be okay.”  So in addition to the link for the Perfect Pound Cake, I also shared Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Flourless Oatmeal Cookies, and my traditional Crustless Pumpkin Pie.

From almost the instant Angela started making my recipes, she’d add her own tweaks—minor and major! In a relatively short amount of time, Angela has mastered living gluten free and I honestly think that she’s probably made more gfe recipes than any other reader. And some of them, like my pound cake, she’s made many, many times. Angela has a prolific flower garden and has always emailed me photos of her versions of gfe baking creations adorned with her gorgeous flowers, usually her magnificent roses. See photos below of the Perfect Pound Cake that Angela turned into a super fun birthday cake, Banana Kahlua Coconut Cake that Angela turned into a Nutella version, and finally her Individual Crustless Pumpkin Pies.

Pound Cake Becomes Fun Birthday Cake

Sometimes Angela shares her gluten-free baking/cooking experiments on her own blog, The Unofficial Jung SuWon Food blog, subtitled Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim’s wisdom: The Joy and Power of Food. Check out her posts Scientific Cookie Investigation (this one is really fun!) and What You Can Learn from Making Nutella Cake (I am always happy to take lessons from food!).

Angela travels frequently for her job and before she left for her first major trip after diagnosis, she and I chatted again about how one can travel safely. I seized the moment and asked her if she’d be interested in writing a guest post about her experience. After many, many email exchanges and conversations online, Angela has become a dear friend, so I didn’t mind asking her. Thankfully, she agreed to share her experience with all of us and sent me this outstanding post (which even includes a food dish quiz/tutorial!), when she returned from her first trip to Korea after going gluten free. I know you will both enjoy Angela’s trip report and learn from her detailed information on the food that she encountered on her trip!

First of all, I thank my dear friend Shirley for inviting me to do a guest blog here – thanks Shirley, I am thrilled!  Thank you for trusting me with your readers!

Just as a brief intro, I am Angela Sommers, and went gluten free just about a year ago, after being diagnosed as “extremely” gluten intolerant. I have been doing very well living gluten free, under the mentoring of Shirley.  Her patience and willingness to answer every question is wonderful!

I have been training in the Martial Arts for 28 years now, and work for my teacher, Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim.  Because of that, I get to travel with her to all sorts of places, including Turkey, Belgium, Netherlands and a lot of back and forth to Korea.  I absolutely love my “job” and all the opportunities I get.  I am a videographer/editor by trade, and therefore get to see and experience all sorts of things.  Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim is a big celebrity especially in Korea (as you can see by this welcome below), and so I am always treated extremely well.

Welcome Korea Airport

The most important thing I have learned about gluten free travel is this:


This is true for everywhere you go, but especially when you go to places where you don’t know the language and/or the concept of gluten free is not yet widely known/accepted.

One word of caution about this blog post: these are my experiences and opinions only and by no means meant to be medical advice of any sort.  Also, this blog post is for gluten free folks, and if you are living Paleo, going to Asia would be a much more serious challenge, and would require a lot more research.  I am sure there are many ways that you can travel and enjoy other countries and cultures when you are Paleo, I myself just do not have any experience with this.)

If you are not familiar with the food of the place(s) you are going to, try to read up as much as you can, or find a local restaurant that offers the foods of that country, or find someone who has been there.  The internet is a great place to get information!  Ask, ask, ask!  :-)

In addition – do take a good supply of gluten free snacks/meal replacements, a bag of nuts, whatever you can think of.  This is important.  Don’t skip this step.   (I have been known to make a batch of “Shirley bars”—otherwise known as Shirley’s Chewy Granola Bars–at 4:30 am …)

4:40 am Making Chewy Granola Bars Gluten Free Easily

Mixing Up Gluten Free Easily Chewy Granola Bars

Gluten Free Easily Chewy Granola Bars Wrapped and Ready

A granola bar will start coming in handy on the airplane already.  A flight to Korea, for example, is about 12 hours long, and can be a bit challenging without food.  And the gluten free food they have, well, uhm, take a look for yourself:

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

Airplane Food for Flight to Korea

Also, bring with you a good supply of whatever you need should you be “glutened.”  A lot of people I know use Align (a probiotic supplement), but whatever works best for you, bring a lot of it.  You never know what is available locally, so bring your own.  While of course the goal is to not have any gluten to begin with, sometimes even with the best of care and caution, it still happens.  I use Align and also bring medication for inflammation, which will invariably follow a gluten experience.

Once you are “there,” if you find yourself in a situation where you are offered:

a) foods you do not know what’s in them, and

b) foods that are obviously full of gluten, you will need to find a very polite and nice way of not eating those dishes.

Since I don’t know Korean, and even a lot of Korean interpreters don’t speak English well enough to be able to explain specific food allergies – and because I am traveling with a celebrity, I have found the best way to deal with gluten-filled offerings is to either pick out and eat the things you know are safe, or, politely say that my stomach is upset and I can’t really eat today.  No, this isn’t lying.  I know that if I were to eat that food I would have a very upset stomach, to say the least.

I am lucky that through my years of training and many trips to Korea, I am already familiar with the foods there.  So I have a good idea what’s in most of the things I see.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

Glistening Rice

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

Open Rice Pot

If you are in Asia, and if you can eat grains, rice will be your best buddy.  It’s always available, at most every restaurant, and typically there are always some veggies to be had to go alongside it.  If you go in late summer and throughout the winter months, sweet potatoes and corn on the cob are mostly available, and can fill in the gaps for you. I have been very successful in eating rice, side dishes and some main dishes without being glutened. (Shirley’s Note: I asked Angela what the “specks” are in the glistening rice shown above and she said that they can be either millet or sesame seeds, both of which are gluten free.)

gluten free, steamed Korean sweet potatoes, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

Steamed Korean Sweet Potatoes

(If you are living grain free, I would ask through a good interpreter for a restaurant that specializes in meat, and then ask for a soy-free, MSG free dish.  Again, best to do that before you go.)

When you go to Asia, be aware that culture and tradition are very important to the wonderful people there.  When you are invited out, you are expected to eat, and enjoy.  Since I am with a lot of VIPs because of my job, being polite is of utmost importance.

Here is where the Korean meal structure comes in handy:  typically, the table is loaded with lots of side dishes of all sorts, from kimchi to mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, eggs, fish … depends on restaurant, season, and region as to what will show up on the table.  I have found that a lot of these dishes are gluten free, and also MSG free.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

Ban Chan Table

Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim jokingly refers to the Korean dinner table as democracy, and the typical Western table as “tyranny,” because at the Korean table, you have a lot of food on the table to share and mix and match, and test out, whereas on the Western tables you get your own place with stuff on it and you don’t normally share (well except for Thanksgiving table, but you get the idea.)

One word about MSG …  yes, I do know MSG does not have gluten in it.  However, I am highly allergic to it.  So, if you too are sensitive to MSG, be aware that MSG is widely used in Korean and most other Asian countries.  However, if you ask if there is MSG in your food, the most likely answer will be no, because, they do not know it is MSG.  But if you ask if there is “dashida” in the food, the answer will usually be yes.  Well, dashida equates to MSG because it loosely means soup stock! So, be careful.  Know that most soups have MSG in them, and a lot of times kim chi has it as well.

As for gluten, watch out for the unexpected places it can lurk in—mostly in the form of soy sauce—meat dishes, mostly in foods that come in dark brown sauces.  Also if you see rice that has other “stuff” in it–be aware that sometimes it has barley mixed in, but this is easy to spot–barley stands out among the rice.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

Beautiful Rice Presentation

Also, if you allergic to other foods, you need to be extra careful as sometimes those foods could be mixed right in.  For example, I cannot tolerate gingko nuts.  It’s my personal kryptonite, and will lower my blood pressure to a point I cannot function.  This is serious.  Well, this soup shown below, Jook, looked like a normal rice soup and I was told it was regular rice soup.  But about 10 minutes afterwards I felt the dreaded zombie feeling.  Later I found out that there were ground up gingko nuts in it as well.  One of my travel companions quickly gave me a caffeine tablet which I have with me for just such occasions (I couldn’t function enough to even think about taking mine) and luckily a few minutes later I was at least able to pull myself together enough to sit back down and finish dinner.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

Jook (Soup)

Once again: come prepared.  Did I mention, do your homework and come prepared?

To help you learn about this, I thought it would be fun to have a picture quiz for you, to guess as to which food has gluten, and which doesn’t.    I know, this isn’t exactly fair, nor is it scientific, but let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

Look at the photos and just from their appearance by itself, see what you think about their gluten-free status. Then read my notes on each below.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

1. Shredded Radish Kimchi

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily, radish kimchi, radish kimchee

More Radish Kimchi

1. Radish Kimchi (Shredded or Not)–No gluten, but typically–unless in a specialty restaurant–has MSG.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

2. Sollangtang

2. Sollangtang–No gluten, usually no MSG, not even salt. It is beef bone soup, where the bones get boiled a long, long time and is served with slices of meat in it, and salt and green onions on the side.

not gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

3. Assorted Fried Items

3. Assorted Fried Items–Full of gluten, stay away!

not gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

4. Sesame Leaves

4. Sesame Leaves–Marinated in soy sauce, no go!

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

5. Ban Chan

5. Ban Chan–Assorted marinated vegetables, no gluten in these, and very delicious (but be sure to ask if there is soy sauce in it–recipes vary).

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

6. Yukkaejang

6. Yukkaejang–Gluten free, but usually loaded with MSG.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

7. Leaf Kim Chi

7. Leaf Kimchi–Gluten free, but can have MSG in it.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

8. Salad Kimchi

8. Salad Kimchi–Relax, all good for you.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

9. Truck Stop Ramen

9. Truck Stop Ramen–Run for the hills!  Wheat noodles, wheat based pot stickers, and loaded with MSG.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

10. Bulgogi

10. Bulgogi–Looks tasty, right? Well, typically it’s marinated in a soy sauce based sauce, so bypass that.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

11. Chicken

11. Chicken–See above; same as bulgogi.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

12. Truck Stop Bibim Bap

12. Truck Stop Bibim Bap–I love bibim bap!  It’s rice with assorted vegetables, and typically no gluten in the veggies; this comes with a red hot sauce – watch out for MSG in that.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

13. Veggies in Broth

13. Veggies in Broth–This version was completely gluten free and MSG free.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

14. Wild Mushrooms

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

More Wild Mushrooms

14. Wild Mushrooms–Great choice, no gluten, no soy (in this version) and was great with rice.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

15. Cold Noodles

15. Cold Noodles–Be careful with that!  This particular batch was made with “only sweet potato flour” but as it turned out, yes, there were sweet potatoes involved, but the noodles had other stuff in them. Not gluten free!

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

16. Steamed Mountain Herbs

16. Steamed Mountain Herbs–Absolutely great, no gluten, no msg, and an awesome addition to your rice bowl.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

17. Truck Stop Potatoes

17. Truck Stop Potatoes–My absolute favorites!  Naturally gluten free and also MSG free, these are the best!

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

18. Mandoo and Sauce

18. Mandoo–Easy to see that they are very gluten full!  Look, but don’t even touch!

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

19. Steamed Fish

19. Steamed Fish–Absolutely safe, and very delicious!

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

20. “Everything” Soup

20. “Everything” Soup–Don’t do it; it has pot stickers in it and they are not gluten free.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

21. Fried Mackerel

21. Fried Mackerel–This particular version was safe, no breading or coating of any kind. But in anything that comes to the table fried, take a close look and make sure it’s not coated with any kind of flour or crumbs

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

22. Ban Jan Jap Chae

22. Ban Jan Jap Chae–Although this dish can also be served hot, as a main dish, when served as ban jan it’s cold and only a small quantity. It’s typically safe to eat, as the noodles are either made out of rice or sweet potatoes (I do advise you check to make sure no gluten snuck in) and I would also ask if they used soy sauce or not. This particular version had no soy sauce.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

23. Norumbap

23. Norumbap–Rice soup: totally safe, enjoy!

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

24. Awesome Fish

24. Awesome Fish–No gluten, but high probability of MSG.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

25. Korean Mountain Roots

25. Korean Mountain Roots–As a rule of thumb, most red sauces contain MSG, but are gluten free, so be careful with those. This particular version was great and had neither gluten nor MSG.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

26. Barbecued Fish

26. Barbequed Fish–Gloriously gluten-free.

gluten free, Korea, trip report, Angela Sommers, gluten free easily

27. Rice Pot (with Offending Gingko Nut Circled)

27. Rice Pot–Special rice cooked in a stone pot, over fire. Often times, rice is served mixed with other grains and beans, and sometimes even including chestnuts, gingko nuts, squash and sweet potatoes.  Be sure to ask if there is any barley in it–more often than not, it will be.  This rice was great,  no barley but peas, mushrooms, beans and, yes, I took out the gingko  nut!  The gingko nut is the bright yellow peanut shaped item at 12 o’clock (and circled in the photo).

I hope you enjoyed this short little introductory, and thanks to Shirley for letting me share on her blog!

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesday and Allergy-Free Wednesday.

Not just gf, but gfe!

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


34 Responses to “Gluten-Free Trip Report on Korea from Angela Sommers (with Tutorial on Which Korean Dishes Are Gluten Free)”

  1. Marilyn on March 27th, 2013 2:57 am

    Thank you for the great article – LOVE Korean food!

    Shirley, please tell me you gave Angela your recipe for flourless gf pizza. Our non-gf eating friends call & ask me to make it for them, especially on Fridays.

    • Angela on March 28th, 2013 1:54 am

      Yes, Marilyn, I have her recipe for the gluten free flourless pizza, and it’s wonderful! We love it! And thank you so much for your comment, so glad you liked the article – my first ever guest post!

  2. Jeanne on March 27th, 2013 2:15 pm

    Very interesting!! Also scary!

    • Angela on March 28th, 2013 1:55 am

      Thanks Jeanne, and yes, it can be scary, but with proper preparation, it can be downright fun! And no food allergy should control our lives to the extent we can’t do or go whatever or wherever we like! :)

  3. InTolerant Chef on March 27th, 2013 4:43 pm

    Very interesting post indeed thankyou. It certainly can be tricky eating out let alone eating overseas with food InTolerances can’t it? I have little laminated cards written in several languages stating that I cannot eat wheat or gluten, they even have a picture of wheat on them. I have found these invaluable for traveling.

    • Angela on March 28th, 2013 1:55 am

      Thank you, for your kind words! I love your idea with the cards, I will do that next time I travel overseas!

  4. Heather @Gluten-Free Cat on March 27th, 2013 6:49 pm

    What an informative article! I’m not very familiar with Koren foods, so I found all the dishes fascinating. Congratulations for such a successful transition to the gluten-free world! You have the BEST mentor in Shirley!!

    • Angela on March 28th, 2013 1:57 am

      Thank you so much Heather! I happen to love Korean food, but it can be very challenging too! And I agree, Shirley has been the best! Not only does she know her stuff, she is also incredibly patient with newbies like me :)

  5. Melissa @ glutenfreeforgood on March 28th, 2013 2:59 pm

    Wow, what a comprehensive post. I loved it, especially since I’ve traveled to Korea and am familiar with some of the foods. I love some versions of kimchi, and others, not so much. I spent time in Korea in the mid 1980s, before I was gluten-free, so I didn’t worry about gluten, it was more about what the heck I was ordering. I have to admit, I liked the food and looking back, it seems most dishes I ate were rice based with veggies. The sauces and spices may have been “tainted” with gluten, but overall, the food was good and probably safer than American food when it comes to gluten. =)

    Great post!

    • Angela on April 2nd, 2013 10:07 am

      Thanks so much for your kind comment Melissa! You are right, the majority of dishes are rice based with lots of veggies in all kinds of variations and sauces and such. Still the best choices. I am glad you had your own experiences in Korea – it is still a lovely place, although more recently, it is getting more dangerous to go to…..

  6. Susan on March 28th, 2013 3:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information with us Angela and Shirley. It is so wonderful and fascinating to travel abroad, but with food concerns, it can be scary and life threatening. When I travelled to China I had a Chinese friend write out that I was allergic to shrimp and also found a picture of a shrimp and put a big X through it. I had the sign laminated and carried it with me to show at each restaurant. Only once did I get some shrimp mixed in with rice (even after I had my sign and the guide had spoken with the server). Thankfully I spotted it and had my friend try it first. You can try your best to avoid these kinds of scenarios, but I totally agree that you’ve got to be prepared and do research. Your life sounds fascinating Angela!

  7. Angela on April 2nd, 2013 10:14 am

    Thank you Susan for your kind remarks – I love your idea of carrying a simple sign – makes it easy to understand even if you don’t speak the same language. And yes, preparedness is everything. Glad you have had the opportunity to travel to unusual places yourself! :0

  8. Kelly on May 26th, 2013 4:35 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m still adjusting to living gluten-free (and soy-free and with other restrictions). I was able to thoroughly enjoy a rare dinner out with my husband at a local Korean restaurant. Dolsot Bibimbop is one of my favorite dishes, and because of the information here, I was able to enjoy it and some of the wonderful Ban Chan. I’m so glad to know that I can enjoy Korean food. Also, this particular restaurant does not use MSG, an added positive!

    • Angela on May 28th, 2013 10:50 am

      Hello Kelly,

      I am thrilled to hear that my humble little post was helpful to you and that you were able to enjoy a wonderful Korean dinner out! I too love Korean food and the Dolsot Bibimbop is one of my alltime favorites! Thank you so much for your comment, it made my day! (It especially made my day – just got home from the hospital from surgery and your comment really cheered me up!) :)’PS: my recommendation: stick with Shirley’s blog, she has a wealth of knowledge, experience, and most importantly, empathy and an endless amount of hugs….)

  9. Esther on June 11th, 2013 5:32 am

    Hi I stumbled on your site and am a celiac korean and wanted to warn you that red sauces are almost always made with go gochujang which is not gluten free!! It has lots of wheat flour and as a result, most red sauces are not safe!!

    I learned this the hard way. I was glistened for a very long time because it never occurred to me to check the red chili pepper paste!

    I love the pictures and info though- keep up the good work!

    • Angela on June 13th, 2013 10:54 pm

      Thank you Esther for your very important input!

      I knew that it can be loaded with MSG, and that sometimes it can have gluten, but wasn’t aware that it most always does – I must have been extremely lucky!

      Thank you again, and good luck with your gluten free journey!

      • Esther on June 13th, 2013 11:26 pm

        One other thing i forgot to mention was that in the bibimbap there is the mung bean sprouts which look very unassuming but oftentimes they add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce for flavor but it doesn’t change the color at all so always ask!

  10. Jen on June 25th, 2013 8:47 pm

    Thank you so much for this little tutorial! My husband, son and I are about to move to South Korea. I plan to print this off with all of the pictures and information to carry with me. I do already have laminated dining cards in Korean (available in 54 languages here: We printed off several copies and laminated them to carry with us so that we can pass them back to the kitchen for the cooks to read as well. I think the pictures and descriptions in your article will be a great addition to those to help me remain gluten free while living there. I know after a little while, it will get easier for me, but initially (as it was for me initially here) it is going to be difficult. And we will have to be eating out for the first 2-3 months we are there until our household goods arrive. We will be on Kunsan AB (Air Force Base), in a relatively small town (by Korean Standards) on the Yellow Sea in the South. I’ve been told that it is a beautiful part of the world and many of the people I’ve talked to have loved it there, not wanting to return to the US! Thank you again for such a wonderful article!

    • Angela on June 25th, 2013 9:56 pm

      Thank you for your very kind comments! I am very excited for you to go to Korea and experience the country first hand!
      You will find that most of the people are very friendly and welcoming, and the food is great!
      As for the red sauces – always ask! When I purchase the “goju-jang”, I always look and make sure it doesn’t have any gluten in it and there are versions that don’t. But it’s not guaranteed.
      Also, I am learning, a lot of times you will be told there is not gluten in something simply because gluten isn’t listed as an ingredient!!!
      I had a wonderful cook in a Korean restaurant assure me the flour (regular wheat flour) he was using had no gluten, simply because the word gluten wasn’t on the package! So be careful with that, and enjoy the people, the country and the food.
      And yes, the South of Korea can be breathtakingly beautiful!
      Enjoy your time there, and I would love to hear from you!
      You can always get my e-mail address from Shirley, I just don’t like posting it publicly.
      Good luck!

  11. Jen on November 19th, 2013 7:03 am


    We arrived in ROK at the end of July and have been loving our time here! I’ve been meaning to follow up with you sooner and to get your email from Shirley, but just haven’t. It has been an adjustment and I do tend to be a bit fearful of eating out here, but have found a few dishes that are great. I’m not sure how to spell it, but there is an item that is essentially an omelet filled with rice cooked with onions and peppers. I do order it without the sauce because I can’t verify that it is safe. Quite good! And I get chicken fried rice with no barley nor soy sauce (add my own gluten free soy sauce). I have to be especially careful now as I am now 7 weeks along with our second little one who will be born here in Korea! You are welcome to get my email from Shirley as well, since it is required for the post. Thank you again for the wonderful article and pictures!

    • Angela on November 20th, 2013 11:44 am

      Hello Jen,

      I am so glad you are adjusting to life, and food, in Korea. Fall is my favorite time over there, with all the wonderful new harvest dishes everywhere! I love the “hobak jook”, the lovely pumpkin soup/gruel, but always always ask what else is in there. Most of the times, it’s just rice flour to thicken it a little, but once in a while they use wheat flour, so be sure to ask. My new strategy, rather than ask if there is wheat or gluten, I just ask what’s in it, as you are more likely to get the real story :)

      I look forward to hearing more from you! I don’t mind putting my e-mail here, its – hop you have a minute to drop me a line! I bet it’s already very cold over there – if you are somewhere out in the country it will be breathtakingly beautiful, with all the snow!

      Good luck, especially with your coming new family member! All the best,

  12. Katie on November 20th, 2013 5:48 am

    There is a great restaurant near the CVG in Gangnam, and a second location in Sinsa on Garosogil-ro, named Novel Cafe. I am able to order their avocado shrimp salad as long as I bring my own dressing. Also, I ate at Shabu-O in gangnam, out of exit 09, These are the only restaurants I have found so far in Seoul. (I ordered the korean and thai broths, and just brought my own gluten free soy sauce for dipping) Hope this helps someone

    *** PS*** that red sauce called go chu cheong is loaded with gluten, be sure to ask for food without it, generally it comes in bi bim bap, gimp, and dalk galbi

    • Jen on January 23rd, 2014 12:01 pm

      I will definitely have to look the restaurants you mentioned up! I will be having our newest addition at Mediflower in the Gangnam area and will need to find food.

  13. Angela on November 20th, 2013 11:58 am

    Hello Katie,

    Thanks for your comment! It’s always helpful to have some “safe” restaurants to go to! I maybe going to Korea early next year, and if I do then I will certainly visit the restaurant you mentioned!

    I think it’s great you are bringing your own dressing and soy sauce, and makes dining out a lot less stressful.

    Thanks for the tip on the red sauce. I do generally stay away from it, but sometimes I run across a version that doesn’t have gluten. Best policy as always, if in doubt, don’t eat it.

    Thanks, and have a great day!

  14. Chris on January 19th, 2014 10:34 pm

    Loved the article, I have found that most red pepper pastes have wheat in them(not just MSG but straight up wheat flour). It is kind of hard to find any pastes without it, and I live in an area with multiple sources for different brands etc.

    Just be super careful, if you have doubts always ask or have a travel gluten free card with translations.

    • Shirley on January 22nd, 2014 12:31 am

      Hi Chris–First, welcome to gfe. I am really grateful to you taking the time to comment and share this important info based on your experiences. It could really help a lot of folks. I know Angela and others reading will really appreciate your help!


    • Angela Sommers on January 22nd, 2014 12:49 am

      Just saw this – thanks so much for your comment Chris. Yes most of the red pastes have gluten, as I am finding out; I suppose have been pretty lucky and priviledged to travel with a VIP to Korea, so it’s been easier for me to stay clear of gluten. Sorry, I should have taken that into account a lot more. I would have probably ended up glutened a lot more if I had been on my own.

      And I have to say, I love the GF community Shirley has helped build and I love how she encourages dialogue for the good of all GF folks.
      Incidentally, I have now learned how to make suchebi gluten free and even some Koreans said they were the best they ever had – not to toot my horn, just to say it IS possible to enjoy all sorts of food. (also, it took me a long time of trial and error to make the suchebi – I am not a recipe developer, but I really wanted to have them again :) )

  15. Emily on February 24th, 2014 10:48 pm

    I just came across this as I’ve been looking for ways to make more Korean food gluten free, and I thought I should tell you that the red sauce in a lot of those dishes is gochujang (고추장) and almost all gochujang is made with wheat flour, so almost anything with a red sauce (particularly the thick red sauce used on top of bibimbap) and almost any spicy soup is actually not gluten free at all. Even some kimchi is made with gochujang, so be careful. Just trying to help!

    • Angela on February 25th, 2014 1:43 am

      Hello Emily,

      Thank you very much for your comment. Glad you pointed that out about the red sauce – one can never be too careful about gluten! It’s been commented and mentioned before, to watch out for the red sauce, the goju jang.
      (forgive the spelling)

      I have had good luck before with special red sauces that turned out gluten free – but yes, it is best to assume it’s in there – not worth the risk of getting glutened.

      Incidentally, my Martial Arts Grandmaster, originally from South Korea, is a marvelous cook, and has developed a guaranteed gluten free red sauce/paste. If/when she agrees to share the recipe (she is still tweaking it) I will mention it here and if it’s ok with Shirley, share the link, or let her share it.

      Thanks again!

      • Shirley on February 25th, 2014 10:53 pm

        Angela–Thanks so much for staying on top of the comments on this post! I ask you to do a guest post and it turns into an ongoing “job” for you! ;-) I would love to share the recipe for the gluten-free red sauce/paste if/when your Martial Arts Grandmaster decides to share/has it ready. :-) Sounds like there’s a huge need for it for sure!

        Again, I so appreciate you responding to all the comments here! Hugs,

    • Shirley on February 25th, 2014 10:50 pm

      Hi Emily–Welcome to gfe! Thanks so much for your input. I really appreciate all of you who are commenting to ensure that others stay safe! :-)


  16. Jen on February 26th, 2014 10:11 am

    I was just thinking about this post earlker his evening while eating dinner out at the food court at our local eMart. One thing I’ve found to be safe there is what is called omerice (not sure of the spelling) which is like an omelet filled with rice cooked with carrots and onions. Tasty! I always make sure to order it sans sauce since I cannot verify the ingredients of the sauce.

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