Gluten-Free Shopping: Asian Grocery Stores

I use Asian ingredients a lot in my gluten-free cooking. Many are inherently gluten-free, making meals so much easier. Sure, my local grocery store has an Asian foods section, but it is largely geared toward the basics like soy sauce (sometimes they stock GF tamari, sometimes they don’t), other sauces, and various noodles and pre-packaged meals (including — thank you! — some great gluten-free meals from Taste of Thai).

But I like to keep my pantry well-stocked with other ingredients I use on a regular basis, so I make regular trips to one of the local grocery stores that caters to the large Asian population in my neighborhood. One store, 99 Ranch Market, is a mix of familiar products and interesting items such as whole Durian fruits. Another is geared more toward Chinese foods, with what seems to be an entire aisle devoted just to soy sauce.

Yes, you have to be very diligent about label-reading. I am still hunting for fresh rice flour noodles that don’t have wheat flour. While items must be labeled in accordance with U.S. Laws, you do need to be aware that other nations have different regulatory standards (some may be tighter, some may be laxer).

Below you can see the results of what I thought was a quick trip to buy chile paste. I went to buy this.

Chile paste
I don’t know the brand name of this product, but I love it in many dishes. It’s spicy, but not overwhelming. Lots of flavor. We use it so often, I bought two jars.


And maybe this.

White miso paste for soups and salad dressings.
White miso paste — perfect for soups and salad dressings.


Was hoping to find a large bag of rice flour. Ended up buying six one-pound bags. Pretty good deal, if a bit less convenient than a single bag. We use rice flour constantly in savory pancakes.

White rice flour
I bought six one-pound bags of this since we frequently use rice flour for savory pancakes.


Tapioca starch. Because, well, why not?

Tapioca starch
Glad to finally have tapioca starch on hand. Perfect for thickening gluten-free dishes.


I love making sandwich roll-ups with rice paper wrappers, so I stocked up on the large size. They are perfect for lunches. I couldn’t resist these triangle-shaped rice paper wrappers. Going to try to make some sort of dumpling/dim sum with these.

Triangle-shaped rice paper wrappers.
These were inexpensive enough that I can experiment with fillings for these triangle-shaped rice paper wrappers.


I am excited about finding millet. Have been Googling recipes all afternoon.

Millet, ready for me to decide what to make.


Oh, and after trying many stores, I finally found gluten-free Korean rice cakes (dduk). So many brands carried by local stores have wheat flour mixed in. I’m eager to create a spicy dish with these chewy, flavor-absorbing babies.

Sliced rice cake and gnocchi-style rice cakes.
Two styles of Korean rice cake: sliced and thick balls. Can’t wait to make a stir fry with these! They are labeled gluten-free.


Grabbed some black sesame seeds. They’ll be beautiful on crispy rice with spicy tuna or salmon. I also picked up some tofu. Because, well, it freezes well so I can have it on hand for quick stir fries or other meals.

I am pro-tofu, and a bit weirded out the by cross-promotion for the movie “The Croods”. Just not sure how tofu fits with the movie theme.


The only thing I resisted purchasing — and I know I’m going to regret this — was the plus-sized bottle of fish sauce. I told myself I had a fresh new bottle at in the refrigerator. Since I use fish sauce a lot, I suspect I’ll be going back. I didn’t buy any dried rice noodles because I have plenty on hand. I went a bit wild the last time I shopped.

I couldn’t find any GF soy sauce, but I admit I didn’t look too hard since I have a good supply (and it’s easy enough to purchase locally).

Spicy Thai Beef and Basil with Rice Cakes

This is one of my favorite dishes when I go out for Thai food. Of course, the challenge is finding a place that doesn’t use soy sauce (or uses gluten-free soy sauce). And sometimes rice noodles have a bit of wheat flour integrated or dusted on the noodles. Meaning, sigh, that I haven’t actually found a place that makes this dish gluten-free.

Have I let that stop me? Of course not. This is a fast dish to put together (and can be made with chicken or shrimp if you prefer). You can prep all the ingredients while the noodles are “cooking”. The rest is a quick saute in your wok or skillet.

While this dish is traditionally prepared using fresh rice noodles, I’m having a hard time finding them without wheat flour. So I’ve substituted Korean rice cakes (also known as dduk). Rice cakes are actually thick rice noodles; they have a chewy texture and work well with all kinds of flavors. You can purchase them as a long cylinder or already sliced. I’ve also seen them in a gnocchi-like configuration. They keep well in the freezer, so I buy several packages when I’m out shopping. Find them in the freezer or refrigerator sections of Asian grocery stores.

The best thing about this dish? It can be spicy or mild, depending on your mood. Also, it makes fantastic leftovers.