Managing a low chemical, limited wheat and dairy diet in Asia is much more than just having lists of foods that fit the diet. And there are no ingredient lists, and you can’t guess what the ingredients might be in some made up foods. You may be provided with a large variety of food choices in hotels or on a cruise. They look wonderful. You are forced to manage the whole experience of choosing food in a new way. You started your diet at home and gradually found the variety of allowed foods you needed with important recipes and the narrow list of suitable commercial foods. This took weeks, even months to build up to a manageable diet. When you arrive in a hotel in Singapore or enter an Asian Restaurant you have to plan diet management in a different way! You are looking for foods that are lowish risk in most categories. In restaurants you can ask for plain chicken with plain rice, and the chicken and cashews is often very mild. This way you will be avoiding the high risk foods, especially those high in spice, tomato, capsicum, deli meats, and desserts high in additive colour and flavour and chocolate. Before your trip it is wise to read all the advice on over 300 foods in Tolerating Troublesome Foods, available from this website, to maximise your chances of enjoying as much food as possible, and minimising upsetting reactions.
In hotels and on a cruise all the frustrations of being on a diet are there in force! You see all the foods you used to eat and enjoy, and feel all the “It’s-not-fair-that-I-have-to-be-on-this-diet!” feelings. There seems to be such a variety of food yet very little of it you can be sure is going to prevent reactions in you. It really looks as if at least 80% of desserts have chocolate in them, and the rest are flavoured instant-mousse mounds! Gradually you start finding the usual narrow range of foods you know you tolerate, and you realize that this is what you do at home too. It is just not as in-your-face at home as it is at the huge spread of food at a buffet meal on a cruise.
Then you gradually settle into foods that will be enough for your needs.
Options for breakfast: For fresh fruit use the low risk watermelon and honey dew [not rock melon], dragon fruit, red paypaya, sweet pineapple [taste test to make sure it is the rough-leaf one], plain eggs and Hash Browns. Look at the juices. One day we could get mango juice. If you can manage it there is apple juice occasionally which you can dilute, while avoiding the usual high risk OJ.
Congee- a ‘porridge’ of crushed rice cooked is usually available. Many Asians add vegetables and sauces to it but it can be eaten on its own. It is the perfect food if you have had a little motion sickness on your trip and need to ease in to normal eating.
Options for lunch: Soups were usually mild fish or chicken [or other soups known to be spicy so you reject all of those]. I found that with plain rice added the mild ones were filling. Some had noodles. I occasionally had both mild soups, perhaps one chicken and one fish or shellfish. If you can have some bread there is a variety of very fresh and crusty ones.
Plain rice was always beautifully cooked and hot. Gluten free bread could be requested. Lovely hot French fries were available at lunch and dinner, and mashed potato. The French fries had a little coating so test for tolerance.
For protein there was the fish of the day [if not in a sauce, though I once added it to a thin soup to wash off the sauce and just lifted out the plain fish.] There was a carvery area that cut slices of plain fresh meats of different varieties. Sometimes the meats were in a sauce that was something you could try, such as mushrooms, if that had passed your individual taste challenge trial.
There was always fresh lettuce and a variety of fruit depending on how long the cruise had travelled since the last port. Occasionally there were many just-ripe bananas, then ripe ones, then only over-ripe ones until the supply ran out. I travelled to Singapore and Beijing, then on a cruise through South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Ho Chi Ming city. Using the formal dining room was a problem as waiters are not familiar with a diet without all the flavours they expect everyone to desire. Using the buffet allows you many options and you can make your own assessment of the options. Staff do help by letting you know if a dish contains tomato, capsicum, herbs or spices.
Dessert options: There was a plain mildly vanilla custard, and whipped cream and vanilla icecream to have with the available fresh fruit or on their own. Puddings may be plain bread pudding or crumble but were usually laced with cinnamon or other spices.
As usual, because your options are limited you do need to give yourself big serves of safe foods to ensure you do not lose weight. And you have the opportunity to try some low risk foods to get some extra calories. Managing a special diet is always annoying to some degree, but you can make choices to have the food you tolerate well enough to enjoy all the other delights of travelling in Asia.