Gluten Free in India Part I: Packing & Planning

I think we all agree that traveling gluten free can be a bit scary.  What about language barriers and awareness levels?  Do they understand the risk of cross contamination?  Will I be able to taste the local food or will I be stuck relying on fruit, nuts and granola bars, essentially only skimming the surface on the local culture?

But here I am on a short term business assignment in India.  I will be living in a hotel in Gurgaon, a subdivision of Delhi, for the next five weeks.

I didn’t take anything for chance on this trip.  Once I found out the two hotels that I could choose between for my stay in Gurgaon, I immediately emailed both hotels to see of they would be able to cater to my severe food intolerances.  I asked if they had served gluten free guests before and what types of gluten free foods they had on their menu.  I explained the risk of cross contamination and also stressed that I would be there for five weeks to (1) show the magnitude of my stay and (2) show that I was going to be a special guest.

I heard back from both hotels, however I was much more impressed with the response from the Courtyard Marriott and felt safer food-wise choosing them.  The head chef emailed me back personally and explained that there were plenty of gluten free foods that he could prepare for me.  He even provided a sample list of meals.

Negi Chef, the head chef, told me that he would be my personal chef while I stayed there on business.  I felt much better about that. He understood the risk of cross contamination and that I couldn’t eat from the buffet like many of the other guests do.  I really appreciated all of his help during my stay.  Not only did he serve me safely and instructed his staff how to prepare my food so I never once got glutened but he also really wanted me to try new Indian dishes and cooked me such a delicious wide array of dishes.  I really felt immersed into the local food, choosing to stick with traditional Indian dishes for all my meals.

I came well prepared.  It’s safe to say that one of the most important things about traveling gluten free is being prepared.  Knowing I’d be restricted to only eating at the hotel and I wouldn’t have access to a grocery store, I came here with a 20 kg suitcase full of gluten free food!!  Just in case, I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of snacks to keep me full.  Plus I figured since I’d be in the office from 5:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m. and sleeping throughout the day, I’d rely on snacks to get me through my odd eating pattern.  Protein is key!  I didn’t want to bring any fillers or junk with me.  I wanted to bring foods chock full of protein and fiber.  That meant plenty of Lara bars, peanut butter and oatmeal.

Yes, I brought this suitcase to India 'just in case'

Yes, I brought this suitcase to India ‘just in case’