Gluten Intolerance (Celiac)

Intolerance of the gluten proteins in certain grains, including all forms of wheat (including bulgur, durum, einkorn, faro, kamut, semolina and spelt) and related grains, ryebarley, and triticale, is called Celiac Disease.

Wheat (buğday, boo-DAH-yee) and wheat flour (un, OON) in various forms are popular ingredients in the Turkish diet, so if you have Celiac Disease you will need to be careful about what you eat in Turkey. But don’t despair! Travel in Turkey is possible.

Turkish pilav (cooked rice with various spices and additions) is often a good gluten-free choice, but watch out for pilavs that contain small amounts of noodles, usually in the form of orzo (small oblong “grains” of wheat pasta) or vermicelli (slender “spaghetti”), added for visual and gustatory interest.

Bulgur pilav (bool-GOOR pee-lahv, cracked wheat) is added to some dishes but not apparent. When you see it, it’s usually in the form of tiny grains (polygons) of cracked wheat tinted red from having been cooked in tomato sauce.

Turkish sulu yemekler (stews) look like good choices, but many (if not most) contain wheat flour as a thickener. A few may contain noodles (pasta), some contain potatoes or rice. It’s best to check with the chef every time.

Most salads do not contain gluten, and many meze(appetizers) are good and gluten-free as well. Ms Canan Onural advises to order simple grilled meat, salad, and fresh fruit for dessert. Shish kebap and lamb chops (kuzu pirzola)may be good choices for grills.

Turkish sourdough bread is baked fresh twice daily, but of course that can’t be part of your diet. Neither can any of the various börek(savory flaky pastries) or noodle dishes. (By the way, pasta refers to pastry, not noodles, in Turkish.)

Few gluten-free products are available in Turkish grocery stores as yet.

By the way, the Neyzade Restaurant in the Sirkeci Mansion Hotel in Istanbul is sensitive to food allergies, and always has gluten-freevegetarian and vegan choices available. More…

Useful phrases:

İçinde un var mı? (EE-cheen-DEH oon VAHR muh), Is there flour in it?

Hiç buğday veya un yeyemem. (HEECH BOO-dah-yee veh-yah OON yee-YEH-mehm), I cannot eat any wheat or flour.

Buğday alerjim var. (BOO dah-yee ah-lehr-ZHEEM vahr), I am allergic to wheat. (Not medically correct, but effective.)

(Get more information from the Celiac Disease Foundation.)

—by Tom Brosnahan


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