Sushi, What’s the Point?

6 Mar

I used to love sushi. Not the raw fish sushi.  The kind that comes in a roll  covered in rice and avocado and macadamia nuts and tempura anything and sweet sauce.

Last night we ordered in from our favorite Japanese restaurant. At this point I would like to remind you (and myself) that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. “I’d like a nutty shrimp” I said to the man on the other end of the phone, my voice full of regret. “But instead of tempura shrimp I will just have ebi (steamed shrimp) and a yummy yam, but instead of the tempura yam, just steamed yam, oh, and can I have those made with brown rice?”

Thirty minutes later I was dipping rolls of sticky brown rice into my wheat-free tamari and wasabi mixture, coveting the eel soaked in a sweet gluteny sauce that my husband was enjoying.  My shrimp was chewy. Have you ever noticed that shrimp on its own as no flavor whatsoever? The yam was yummy, naturally sweet. And who doesn’t love a yam wrapped in brown rice?

This morning I woke up feeling nauseous. Maybe I was unintentionally glutened.  Or maybe it was intentional.  Either way it wasn’t worth it. I’m thinking of giving up on food all together.  Can’t I just take a pill for that? I would happily go for weekly intravenous meals.

When I’m feeling blue, I sometimes call a friend, or buy a lot of shoes, or search the internet. It was too early to call anyone and my bank account is on empty so I googled.  I searched gluten-free sushi just to see what somebody else had to say on the subject.

I found one blogger extolling the virtues of sushi when dinning with friends, “… I didn’t need to do as much research upfront and I knew there would be SOMETHING I could eat (even if it was just steamed edamam). ” . This made me realize I have been setting the bar a little too high. If I only had her glass-half-full attitude why I could go to any restaurant knowing that at the very least I could have a plate of lettuce.

And then this from Gluten Free: The Celiac Site

“Every celiac should develop a taste for Sushi. Consider one blogger’s  suggestion:  “Once I was diagnosed with Celiac, sushi restaurants became a haven for my gluten free dining. It’s so much easier to ask someone if they want to go for sushi than look for other gluten free friendly dining establishments. I can just grab my bottle or packets of gluten free soy sauce and head to the restaurant.”

Wow, you make it sound so fun! But wait, there’s a catch…

“Sushi is gluten free, but (as always) there are cross contamination issues. This same blogger continues: “Unfortunately eating sushi gluten free is not completely care-free and there are still things you need to be wary of in order to eat safely. Ask for your fish to be cut with clean utensils on a clean surface. The rising popularity of tempura rolls has increased the chances for cross-contamination here. Tell your server no crab unless they can assure you it’s real, most fake crab meat used in sushi rolls is made with wheat. Most roe (fish eggs) used to top sushi has wheat as an ingredient. Also, ask for no sauce, albacore sashimi usually comes with a forbidden sauce and many white fish are sprinkled with a gluten containing culprit. Eel (unagi) comes soaked in a sweet sauce that is a definite no-no. Double-check the wasabi, ginger and rice to make sure that there are no suspect ingredients.”







Then more joyous news:

  • Even the sesame seeds that sometimes coat sushi rolls may be mixed with a wheat product. (WTF!)
  • And the sticky rice is sometimes soaked in vinegar containing gluten.  (now that’s just mean)

First, can we just all agree that gluten-free and carefree should not be used in the same paragraph?

Second, I am never going to utter these words in a restaurant, “please make sure my fish is cut with clean utensils on a clean surface” . It’s just not going to happen.

Third, I’ll just have a large sake.

14 Responses to “Sushi, What’s the Point?”

  1. spaceandlightandacupoftea March 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    And did you know that the brown rice sushi at Whole Foods has barley juice in it (or possibly just barley, or was it farro?), so it too is not gluten-free? And the yummy peanut sauce in their lettuce wraps is also full of something wheaty?? And, even though Whole Foods market sells little packets of gluten-free soy sauce, the actual sushi counter inside that very same Whole Foods Market does not? And when you suggest they might want to walk ALL THE WAY OVER to Aisle Three and get some, they look at you like you’re crazy? Even though you said it in a very nice voice?
    So yeah, I’m with you, sister. Pass the sake.

  2. jamie jeffries March 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Oooo. What a bummer. I’d drink the sake, too. Boxes of it with my name on it.
    Sorry you have to go through all this. I didn’t realize how very complicated it could get.
    It’s like you have to become a scientist and a medical detective to stay out of harm’s way. I’d a a raving BITCH if I had Celiac disease.
    Keep bitchin’ and we’ll laugh and cry with you…and feed you gluten-free chocolate.


  3. Sarah Savasky March 6, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    and I just found out from a friend that Takata’s soaks their seaweed (for seaweed salad) in soy sauce.

  4. Melinda November 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I love your site. I have given up on sushi all together. But, WTF! I just found out my favorite mexican restaurant puts wheat in their salad dressings, refried beans, rice, ect… WHY!!! I’m so pissed I wrote them a nasty letter vowing to boycott them until they get a clue. Is there some sort of wheat lobby that promotes putting it in everything just for the fun of it?!!! When I ask if they could improvise, they claim their corporate recipes are all they are allowed to follow. Think outside the box, huh, duh, ridiculous when 10% of the population is affected. We need to start a revolution.

  5. J Mason January 28, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Amen Sister! Sushi + Gluten Free = Disaster. Factor in the language barrier and lack of education on celiac disease and a sushi place is actually the worst place to eat on my list. Why not just have a funnel cake. It will yield the same results.

    I have seen online (I live in Nashville) that there is a restaurant called Zumi Sushi that has an actual gluten free menu and it is posted online. It actually looks as though they have taken extreme care in putting it together, and there is no shrimp, crab, fish roe, etc in the sushi rolls on this menu so it is pretty plain sounding but still – to order without having to spew out directives like a dictator and then after angering the waitstaff and confusing the kitchen still getting “glutened” I am considering giving this place a go. I gave up ever having “crunches” and sweet eel sauce, etc on my sushi ever again so this might just add to my sadness rather than make me happy. They claim to have two gluten free salad dressings, gluten free seaweed salad and also house made gluten free miso soup, in addition to quite alot of other items that are not sushi related.

  6. Carly July 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    This bums me out! I am relatively new to a gluten free diet and was just talking to my husband about Sushi a few nights ago. I haven’t been tested, but I know there is at least a sensativity or intolerance there. I feel better without it, but I would really love a spicy tuna roll… like yesterday.

  7. jp November 3, 2013 at 3:14 am #

    Can someone pass the tissues please [sob, sob]. I had sushi for lunch, and about two hours latter started to feel a little funny. I didn’t use soy sauce, I avoided the crab, but ate the wasabi. I was surprised at the….um…er…increase in gastric motility :/ I’m really sad because I don’t have a go to food. I’m basically afraid to eat out at this point. Even where I work they advertise Gluten Free foods, but then, for example, slice the “gluten free” turkey with the same knife they cut the bread with.

  8. Elaine Gruenke January 26, 2014 at 6:02 am #

    Yeah, and while you’re at it, watch that sake too! Some sake is made with barley… ask for junmai if you want to be sure it’s *only* rice. 😛

  9. Lynn Sherwood January 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    Love your post! Just came across it while trying to research eating Japanese and being gluten-free. All I can say is that I am shocked at how much gluten is in Japanese food. Wow! All I can say is eating gluten-free Japanese is not for the faint of heart! No room to be squeamish here. Luckily I just had exposure to sashimi recently and fell in love with it. I live in a small town in the Texas Hill Country and I called the restaurant that I am meeting friends at there tonight and I was pretty much told to stick with the sashimi (with NO sauced or seasoning) and steamed rice. Thats it! REALLY?!! I even have to bring my own wasabi and GF soy sauce. I agree, I’d rather just eat at home at this point. It is such a pain in the derrière to eat out anymore. It’s not enjoyable because you always worried if your going to get unintentionally glutened and I’m tired of seeming like the “high maintenance” individual. It’s not bad when its just me and my family but I find it embarrassing when we’re out with friends. Usually because of the lack of knowledge regarding Celiac’s and all it entails. People really don’t understand it and I think they view it as a bit of snobbery in a way, just not knowing the physical ramifications that will be endured if we ingest gluten.
    Hell, maybe I’ll just drink my dinner and have wine instead of it all! 🙂

  10. Robyn April 6, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    So, after many iffy sushi meals over the years (some that seemed to be okay, others with the lovely stomach ache after), I went to a newly reopened sushi restaurant near where I live and the chef heard me say I couldn’t have gluten… he came out after I ordered my California Rolls (with real crab) and said that if he gave me the regular sushi with the seaweed that would be a problem, as the seaweed is made with some soy sauce in it! I NEVER thought that the seaweed would be a culprit! He offered me some pink soy wrap instead, which since I have been craving sushi for months and gluten does not send me to a hospital I sat there silently contemplating the risk of my craving not being satisfied, he said he would give me one of each then. So I tried that. Afterwards I was wishing I’d have just not had the seaweed at all, but the stomach ache was less than usual anyway. So apparently for all who do not know this, the seaweed can be a problem. They have soy and rice wrap stuff that they can use if the restaurant has it. The pink soy wrap is a bit on the sweet side, which worked well for me because I can’t have avocado either so I sub mango or papaya for it, so my California Rolls are on the sweet side anyway. You don’t get that sea taste though without the seaweed, but if you dip in tamari it’s not all that obvious really.

  11. Angela May 5, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Terrific post and comments, thank you. I just got glutened by restaurant wasabi. Like J Mason said, I should have just had a funnel cake. I had had luck in the past. Now I am updating my regime to sashimi, rice, and my own soy sauce and wasabi. It is a good fallback for work meals or travel.

  12. celiacgirlonthegocom May 9, 2016 at 2:56 am #

    I feel your pain! The last time I had sushi rolls (I like the kind that you like) was at a sushi place in BC that specifically advertised GF. Now I’m on the hunt for GF wasabi. Just found out that the one in my fridge has wheat flour. Out to the trash it goes :(!

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