Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Shellfish: why there is none in my food

I am allergic to shellfish. Not dangerously, life-threateningly allergic but they make me ill, usually within 20 minutes of consuming them. So I don't eat or cook with the following:

  • prawns
  • shrimp
  • crab
  • lobster
  • mussels
  • scallops
  • oysters
It is easy enough to avoid using whole shellfish in most recipes, but Thai cooking often uses shrimp paste and oyster sauce is a common  or ingredient in Chinese dishes. Vegetarian substitutes exist, usually made from fermented bean curd or mushrooms, but I tend to use light soy sauce instead. There is a useful article about vegetarian alternatives in Thai cooking here http://www.thaigrocer.com/VegAdapt.html

When eating out I try to be careful. I don't order Pad Thai or Singapore Noodles, for example as I know they generally contain prawns. But many dishes contain shrimp paste which is not listed in the menu. Luckily the amount used is quite small, and so far (fingers crossed) I have been fine.

So, when I cook Thai curries, I leave the shrimp paste out and, to be honest, I don't really notice the difference. I will be cooking Thai next weekend and will share the recipe I use so you can try it out for yourself.

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