Monday, September 23, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at P.F. Chang's

Chinese Restaurants

When dining out, I really prefer the unique, mom-and-pop ethnic family restaurants. But since having to be gluten-free, the options for me at these small, homegrown restaurants can often be extremely limited or non-existent. (One fantastic exception to this is Chef Chu's!)

Being gluten-free has given me a new appreciation for large, corporate, chain restaurants. Not love, mind you.  Just appreciation. These chain restaurants have been very responsive in addressing the current trend of offering gluten-free selections.

(Note: I really hope this is not just a trend with the restaurants. I have no expectation, or hope, that I will be lucky enough to ever eat gluten again without getting sick. That is not a trend. That is a lifestyle. I sincerely hope restaurants are making permanent additions with their gluten-free menus.)

Chain or not, if I can be assured that a restaurant will make my meal safe for me, I am much more relaxed and comfortable. I like relaxed and comfortable.

And chains have the advantage of being recognizable and predictable when traveling to unfamiliar cities.

Predictable is a wonderful thing when you need to be gluten-free.

Now, in addition to predictable and gluten-free, let's add something. Add delicious! Now we are getting somewhere. 

P. F. Chang's even has even one more feature to add.
P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

P. F. Chang's 

Chinese food. I love Chinese food. I used to love Chinese food.

Now, I worry about Chinese food. The soy sauce. The thickened sauces. The won ton soup. The battered chicken and shrimp. Everything and anything fried in a deep fat frier.

I worry about being glutenated.

On this particular evening, I wasn't even traveling in an unfamiliar city. I was home. And both kids were somewhere else for dinnertime. And that meant that my husband and I were free to choose "adult food".

No, no, no. Not adult food. Just food that we adults like. We just like foods that the kids don't like. Like Chinese food. 

So I called our (formerly) favorite local Chinese restaurant to see if they have turned the corner and could accommodate my gluten-free needs.

After explaining twice, I had little confidence that I would not end up sick.

But we both still wanted Chinese food for our kidless dinner.

That's when P. F. Chang's came to mind. I know they have had a gluten-free menu for years.

But a chain restaurant? Near home? Seemed strange. Seemed like that should be reserved for when you can't find anything else.

Ah ha. That's it. That's the explanation. We didn't know of any other Chinese restaurant near us that had gluten-free offerings. And that settled it.

P. F. Chang's it was.

I was impressed to find that they did not have a physically separate gluten-free menu. All of the gluten-free offerings are right on their regular menu. And they had plenty to choose from!

I was tempted by so many of these options. But then my eye fell on GF Mongolian Beef.

That's it. I was done.

I haven't been able to have any kind of Mongolian beef in many, many years. Ever since going gluten-free. Why? Because almost all places marinate their beef in glutenated soy sauce (even Chef Chu's, unfortunately). 

That's a huge bummer for me. I learned to love Mongolian beef at a Mongolian bar-b-que that my brother loved to go to, just a couple of blocks from where we were living in the Los Angeles area. It was just a hole-in-the-wall place, but the food was great, fixed fresh while you stood in line.

And I haven't figured out how to replicate Mongolian beef at home. At least, not adequately.

So, Mongolian beef it would be for me. But what about all those other choices?

One of the best parts of going out for Chinese that I now miss the most is the sharing of many different dishes. A beef dish. A chicken dish. A shrimp dish. And then being able to sample them all.

In recent years, if I am able to get something gluten-free, it becomes my dish. My meal. No sharing. I can't have anyone else's dish and no one feels right about trying some of my dish. That means I eat safely, but it is also a whole lot less fun. A whole lot less adventurous.

But P. F. Chang's had added so many GF options that I might just be able to sample more than one dish! Just like old times eating in Chinese restaurants! 

With so many gluten-free options on this menu, I ventured to ask my husband if he was possibly willing to also get something off the gluten-free menu so that we could share.

He said, "Sure," and he started looking at what options were listed. Fantastic! I was so thrilled! I would be able to share in several dishes again, all gluten-free!

Happy, happy, happy!

P. F. Chang's had added the ability for me to share in many different dishes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We discussed all the options that interested us and settled on the GF Mongolian beef, GF shrimp with lobster sauce, and GF pork fried rice.

I think the next time I go back, I will have to try the GF Singapore Street noodles! So many GF options!

I was thrilled with the Mongolian beef! It was so tasty! And it was crispy, which I don't remember from years ago, but I liked it.  I just wish the lighting in the restaurant was better. I could not get a decent picture of it.

And the shrimp with lobster sauce was delicious! With black beans in there, this made for a most delicious meal!

But wait! There's more!

The pork fried rice! But I forgot to take a picture of it. In any case, it too was delicious!


This was a most enjoyable and delicious dinner! And not just because we didn't have the kids with us! Honest!

The food was exceptionally good and everything we ordered came gluten-free and I was able to thoroughly enjoy everything! We shared all the dishes between the two of us. What a pleasure I have been missing out on all these gluten-free years!  

We had far too much food for just the two of us, but we took it home. And we knew the kids wouldn't touch any of it. Fine by us!

I fear we may have to go back. And soon. It was so good! 

Thanks for the plentiful gluten-free choices, P. F. Chang's!

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