Photo courtesy of Fat Dragon
Fat Dragon's Fei-Lone beef sports filet mignon, mushrooms and Chinese peppers simmered in spicy sauce over sautéed bok choy, all sans gluten when you order it with the tamari-based sauce.
Once you make it through Thanksgiving sans celiac attack, after your relatives have cleared all the leftovers and you can't bear the thought of stepping back into the kitchen, there's always one stalwart on the quick 'n' easy cuisine horizon: Chinese food. Unfortunately, Chinese food is a celiac sufferer’s roulette wheel. There are gluten-free options, but between the sauces (soy, oyster, hoisin, brown), the starches, and the “rice” noodles — which sometimes also contain wheat — you have to be so careful that it’s almost not worth bothering. Not everyone is up for a 20-minute conversation with a server who has to run repeatedly to the kitchen to read labels, but that’s what you’re often up against if you don’t want to order Super Boring #1, A.K.A. rice with sauceless steamed vegetables. So, what's a GF kid to do? In Richmond, the question is really, “Where should you go?” And for a mid-size city, the answers are plentiful.
1. Fat Dragon
1200 N. Boulevard, 354-9888
Fat Dragon's gluten-free-optional dishes are clearly noted as such on the menu; just let your server know you'd like the gluten-less version.
The Fryer: Fat Dragon wok-fries dishes to get them crispy, delicious and guaranteed gluten-free. They also make a (drum roll) gluten-free tempura batter for fish and chicken.
The Sauces: Tamari is the go-to for brown sauces and no wheat-based thickeners are used.
The Hot List: Fried swai filet in garlic-ginger sauce; Fei-Lone filet mignon with mushrooms and peppers.
2. C.C. Wok
The Fryer: Request a wok-fry here. They get it! And they’re very careful with their gluten-free preparations.
The Sauces: Gluten-free soy sauce is available for seasoning and sauce-making, which makes every dish on the menu an option except for lo mein and sweet and sour chicken.
The Hot List: Wok-fried honey chicken; Capital Chicken (a Hunan specialty); mei fun noodles with shrimp.
3. Peter Chang China Café
The Fryer: Peter Chang does not have a dedicated gluten-free fryer, but for folks with a mild allergy or intolerance, they’ll dust any fried option in corn starch. The dry-fried eggplant is a must.
The Sauces: No gluten-free soy sauce to be found here, but their light sauce is the best in the city.
The Hot List: Chicken with Sichuan chili pepper; tofu flounder hot pot; stone pot shrimp and potato.
[12/20 Update: Fat Dragon's listed dishes do not automatically arrive gluten-free; they must be ordered as such. This post has been updated to reflect this.]