Tonight I struggle with a recent news story of another peanut allergy ending in the death of a little girl. Here is the link to the story if you’re interested: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/03/17/suit-student-died-from-peanuts-in-chinese-take-out/ I have constantly read similar stories of the two (Asian food and peanut allergies) not mixing. Even my mother, whom when working in an emergency room, watching a young boy being rushed in and later passing, recalls his lack of an epi pen and his dinner being at the local Chinese restaurant. The scary stories are there and are the reason why we have not been near one when we have our son, whom is severely allergic to peanuts, with us. The constant stories, the scary facts of the foods containing nuts or even the possibility of contamination can be overwhelming to anyone dealing with food allergies. Here is the problem...I am so trying to not to judge a person (or restaurant) by its rumors...but then again, because of the "newness" to this world of food allergies, that is what I have to depend on. So, my advice, what works for my state of mind, my husband’s food cravings, and my son's safety is doing our homework, making our own Asian meals, and of course, always being prepared. This is how we do that:
1. (Doing our homework): We have one local Chinese restaurant. We were told that they are careful with any possible contamination and that the items that are nut free...are really nut free...Yeah right. right? So, we literally were invited into their kitchen and to watch how they may our son's favorite meal from there: noodles and sauce. We were able to watch the entire process of separate cutting boards, separate knives, separate pans, and allergy free (by complete coincidence) ingredients. We were also invited (with a little push...well, a little for me), to look in their pantry and the rest of their storage areas and refrigerator to make sure that they didn’t even carry any peanut oil. We order this about once every six weeks and every single time I still watch them use separate tools, etc. I am not sure you have this great opportunity, but it never hurts to ask.
2. (Making our own Asian meals): There are so many ways out there to "tweak" any type of meal. You can Google "replacer" for almost anything edible! So, first I want to be clear of how you can be really creative with making Asian foods. Here are some of our recipes that we use:
Chicken Stir Fry:
In a Wok we use some small pieces of chicken or steak (tofu for vegans), snow peas, cubed squash, sliced red and green peppers, sliced onions, sliced mushrooms, splash of olive oil, splash of maple syrup, chili pepper, garlic, rice vinegar, cumin, salt, pepper, and mix it all together and serve over some brown or white rice...mmmmmmm.....
We use rice or spaghetti noodles (the really thick kind). We cook noodles as directed, then throw them in a Wok with some garlic, cilantro, sliced onions, tbs of sugar, tbs of maple sugar, splash of rice vinegar, some broccoli, sliced scallions, and a splash of olive...fry till done and serve. ...mmmmm.....
3. (Being prepared): For this one, I have a couple meanings. The obvious one is having your epi pen (but at this point that really should be the given). Next, be prepared to leave a restaurant that is not safe for your child with a backup plan that will assist in keeping your child feeling as they didn’t cause another family disruption due to their food allergies. I will also say there have been places we have went to plenty of times, but because they changed their menus or added a new cook, we no longer felt safe to continue to keep them on our "safe list" of places our son could eat. I also still call or look up a restaurant on the internet and Google their recipes and food ingredients, but I never think it is safe to assume this is what the cook follows so it is still important to talk to your waitress when you arrive.
Good luck and remember, a food allergy not always mean you will never eat fried rice, it just may mean that you won’t' eat the version that your used to.