I got an email from a reader who’s visiting Shanghai and asked for recommendations of gluten-free restaurants.
I am currently visiting Shanghai and wonder if you can give me any recommendations for restaurants where I can safely eat gluten free. I am finding it very challenging here. I am here for another week and a half then go elsewhere in China. I would appreciate any help you can offer.
There are no gluten-free restaurants in Shanghai, at least none that I know of. Eating gluten-free/wheat-free in China is not easy, especially if you are traveling! It would be too sad if I said the only places you can eat gluten-free is anywhere that serves food raw — like salads (without dressing), Japanese sashimi (raw fish), etc…
My husband and I don’t eat out at all. We’ve had bad experiences eating out and had to learn things the hard way (my husband has been hospitalized several times). You’ll find that almost every Chinese dish uses soy sauce, wheat starch, thickener, MSG (derived from wheat), vinegar (some contain wheat), and/or wine (some contains wheat). There’s also problems with cross contamination.
If you’re severely allergic to wheat/gluten, I suggest buying and preparing your own simple meals from raw ingredients. You could also look for high-end restaurants where the wait staff speaks really good English.
Here are a few suggestions for travelers visiting Shanghai:
- Carrefour supermarkets have import sections where you can find a small selection of gluten-free products.
- Import supermarkets like City Shop and Pines have more gluten-free selections. There’s a CityShop near Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai Centre (near Jing An subway). There’s also another City Shop near Shan Xi subway (across from Parkson, in the basement next to Watson). Check the City Shop website for other locations.
- The bakery in Hilton Hotel (near Jing An district) carries gluten-free bread.
- 5-star hotel buffets like Hyatt, Westin, Intercontinental, Le Meridian, and Shangri-la are good options, but they are a bit pricey.
- Go to the City Weekend website and find recommendations for higher-end restaurants that cater to foreigners. These restaurants are more likely to have wait staff that speaks decent English.