I recently had the privilege to interview Executive Chef Sharon Nahm of E & O Asian Kitchen up in San Francisco. She attended the California Culinary Academy, and has worked as a chef for the past seven years. She joined the E & O Asian Kitchen in order to pursue her love of cooking Asian foods.
Chef Sharon learned about gluten free cooking organically, through her customers. Guests with Celiac Disease frequently came into the restaurant asking if there was anything gluten free that they could eat. (Little did she know how rare it was to find gluten free Asian food!) She knew she could substitute tamari for soy sauce, but she wanted to provide a good, quality experience for her gluten free customers. Sharon did a lot of research and learned it would not take much to adjust her recipes to accommodate special diets. After adapting dishes for awhile, she was getting enough requests to create a permanent gluten free menu. By having a wide and varied gluten free menu, it gives E & O Asian Kitchen’s gluten free guests a chance to enjoy a variety of regional Asian dishes.
Besides an extensive gluten free menu, Chef Sharon has developed a “Spice Route” menu that changes monthly. The spice route concept features a different spice each month. The spice is then related with a region and Chef Sharon creates a specialty menu centered on this spice. A savory and sweet dish are created, along with a specialty cocktail, which is developed by their bartender. Last month’s spice was the Szechuan Peppercorn. Savory dishes are fairly easy to adapt with the featured spice, but sweet dishes can be a challenge. The sweet dish created around the Szechuan pepper was a dark chocolate pot de creme infused with pepper. The specialty drink was a strawberry gimlet infused with pepper. Throughout the Asian experience, it is important to Chef Sharon that gluten free diners feel like they can participate in the monthly spice route menu.
For inspiration when developing a new dish, Chef Sharon looks at classic Asian dishes and then tries to give them a special twist. One of my favorite examples of this process is when she developed an Oolong tea infused marshmallow. Other gluten free bestsellers include the prawn salad and shaking beef.
Gluten Free At E & O Asian Kitchen
- The staff is trained on the gluten free menu and cross contamination.
- The wok is cleaned before a gluten free order. Clean pans, separate bowls, and utensils are used.
- This restaurant DOES have a shared fryer, so if you are sensitive, please avoid any fried dishes.
- Cooks wash their hands before handling a gluten free order.