Yes! Gluten-Free Chinese food DOES exist. And Summer Palace has a whole menu for you to choose from!
Until recently, I was of the opinion that a gluten-free meal at a Chinese restaurant was impossible.
Thankfully, The Regent Singapore’s elegant Cantonese eatery Summer Palace proved me wrong.
Commanding a whole page of their a la carte menu, the gluten free selections at Summer Palace come after a lot of research by Executive Chinese Chef Liu Ching Hai. He spent months looking for gluten free sauces (did you know most varieties of soy sauce contain wheat?) that did not compromise the taste of his exquisite Cantonese creations. (P.S. they sourced the appropriate sauces and condiments from here).
Of course, if you are intolerant to gluten then this menu is made for you, but it also caters to those looking for a lighter and healthier Chinese meal. The dishes we tried were free of any starchy sauces or cloying gravies — while delicious, those do leave you with the ‘food coma’ feeling after. We ate nearly everything on the menu and left feeling satiated, but not stuffed.
The hallmark of a good Cantonese meal is double-boiled soup, and Summer Palace’s gluten-free soup of soon hock fish that has been double steamed to delicate, comforting flavours and served in a whole golden pumpkin (you scrape the sweet pumpkin flesh of the walls) is delicious ($22 per person). The vegetarian double-boiled soup ($15 per person) is even lighter in flavour, but comes chock full of ‘good for you’ ingredients like winter melon, mushrooms, sweet corn and dates.
With soup out of the way, you move on to mains, and they have something for everyone. For those who like fish, the individually portioned Baked Cod Fish ($22 per person) is drenched in a thin, consommé-like teriyaki sauce — none of that sweet, sticky stuff I was expecting. The sauce allows the fish’s firm, flaky texture to shine, and the dainty portion was gobbled up in no time.
They serve a robust dish of Wok-fried Prawns with Shimeji Mushrooms and Black Garlic ($38 per portion); the aged garlic cloves lend not only a sweet, caramelised flavour, they also come with loads of antioxidants and health benefits. My favourite dish though, was the Pan-fried Kurobuta Cutlet in Mongolian Sauce ($32 per portion); the slices of pork were just the right amount of fatty, and lightly coated a savoury, soy-like sauce.
If you eat everything I did, you really do not need a portion of rice to fill you up further. Even so, the Brown Fried Rice with Wolfberry, Pine Nuts, Mushrooms and Diced Kai Lan, is highly recommended. If for nothing else but the fascinating play on textures between the rice (which had bite!), crunchy pine nuts, squishy wolfberries and mushrooms. All the ingredients are healthy, and it has been fried with zero traces of oil. If you are dining with a little one, this is a dish they will love, too.
We know the eating out struggles faced by gluten intolerant mamas, and Summer Palace’s menu is a very welcome respite. It isn’t one or two token dishes on a restaurant menu, but a whole well thought out spread, complete with starters, soup, mains, sides and dessert. Kudos!
Opening Hours: Lunch 12pm – 2:30pm (Mon-Sat), 11:30am – 2:30pm (Sun); Dinner: 6:30pm – 10:30pm daily.
Summer Palace at Regent Singapore, Level 3, 1 Cuscaden Road, Singapore 249715, Tel: (+65) 6725 3288, www.regenthotels.com/regent-singapore/dining/summer-palace
All images courtesy of the author.