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Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/21 02:37
We are planning a trip to Japan and my husband is very allergic to fish and sea food. I understand that this might be a problem as dashi used in many dishes.
I read the description of Japanese food in this site and listed several foods that according to the description do not include any fish ingredients:
japanese curry, fried rice, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, yakitory, toukatsu, yakiniku.
Can you tell me if there is a chance that dashi is somehow used in preparing these ingredients or else they are safe and can be eaten without asking any questions?
Can you also tell me if there is any type of Ramen or noodle dish that is never prepared with fish?
by margalit (guest)  

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/21 14:24
Is your husband completely allergic to every seafood?

I can say that some places would prepare fried rice with small shrimps in it, instead of pork bits. OR they might use the same wok pan that they cooked fish in it to cook the fried rice. Would it be safer if he looked for complete vegetarian places?
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/22 04:25
Thank you AK. We are aware that cooking dishes can be a problem too.
I read that vegetarian restaurant sometimes use fish stock for cooking, so this is not a solution to our problem. I guess that we can eat at strictly vegan restaurants but I must admit that soy bean hamburger is not exactly my dream food.
i was hoping to find out that at least some meat dishes in Japan are "fish free".
by margalit b rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/22 13:59
Yakiniku should be fine (unless cross contamination but the place we went to didn't offer fish or shellfish as part of their all you can eat deal - this was in kabukicho in shinjuku) and Shabu-shabu as long as it's just boiling water and maybe kombu(if seaweed is ok) in it as the cooking liquid. Bonito flakes is dried fish, so anything that's got dashi stock as part of the recipe is a no go. Sukiyaki liquid may be made on a base of dashi although I'm not entirely sure not being Japanese myself. I'd steer away from Ramen altogether though to be on the safe side.
by chasingme (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/22 14:28
How is your Japanese? Will you be able to communicate the nature of the allergy with the people working there? If not I had a look around on the internet and found these printable and customisable cards that you can print http://justhungry.com/japan-dining-out-cards
There is one for shellfish and one with a blank space that you could write the kanji or hiragana or even romaji for fish on (魚、さかな、sakana respectively in case you were wondering). However, it is useful to familiarise yourself with Japanese cooking techniques to be on the safe side. Most broth/soup based dishes will contain some variation of dashi that will contain fish, so I would avoid them. Yakiniku should be safe as you cook the food yourself so you can control what you do and do not add to the rice. Also, although maybe not a travellers dream, large chains and multinational companies will often have website containing nutritional information on their food (I'm thinking places like Yoshinoya, Sukiya, Saizeria, Torikizoku and McDonalds and Burger King and Subway and all that kind of stuff too). It's not going to win any Michelin stars or anything but at least it won't kill you (well, not in the case of the allergy anyway).
by PhilipJFry rate this post as useful

Bad news and good news 2014/12/22 19:31
First of all, "dashi" simply means "soup stock." As I understand it, what he is avoiding is "sakana no dashi" (fish stock), but he is okay with any other dashi without seafood.

Now, I'm afraid that it's often difficult to sort allergens by names of dishes, because many Japanese chefs or food manufacterers (such as sauce makers) prefer to use fish dashi just to add flavor.

Also, the reason that people suggest things like yakiniku is because it's basically beef heated on a pan. But to seeson that beef, you need seasonings. Some yakiniku dishes may be marinated in fish dashi depending on the chef. Similarly, examples you gave us on your initial post are dishes that were imported to Japan only about a century ago. In other words, it would even be better for you to go to Indian curry resturants instead of that of Japanese curry, or try European cutlet instead of "ton-katsu" (pork cutlet).

It would depend on how serious his allergy is, but one of the best things to do is to book a hotel with a reliable concierge, email in advance so that you know that the person knows what you're talking about, and have all restaurants reserved through him/her. This is what I successfully did when we had allergy problems.

Otherwise, all professionals in Japan concerning food are educated about food allergy, so if you tell them your situation they will mostly understand. Be sure you talk to the manager (tenchou) or the head chef (ryourichou) of the establishment. This is important not only for your safety but for your convenience. Some waiters may have second thoughts about accomodating allergic customers, while chefs and managers usually welcome them as long as they have the right material in their kitchen.

Meanwhile, this "Allergy Sign Plate" saying "I am allergic to..." may be useful. Have the conceirge (or anyone you truly trust) translate/pick what you need.
http://www.bousai.go.jp/taisaku/hinanjo/h24_kentoukai/2/pdf/7_5.pdf

Actually, the more authentically the establishment, the easier it is to avoid seafood material. For example, authentic "yudoufu" don't use any type of dashi at all, but just tofu. Many other dishes only use kobu seaweed as dashi which can be easier on him than fish dashi. So if you book in advance while informing about the allegy, chefs can plan ahead to avoid the allergen, meaning most of them can still make Japanese dishes without using fish.

Either way, don't trust anonymous internet users like me if his allergy is serious. This is just to get you started. Bon Appetit!
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/22 21:38
have you got trouble by dashi stock ?
the website says that most of persons who have fish allergy do not show allergy to fish dashi stock.
http://www.alle-net.com/info/info03/info03-03/
魚アレルギーの多くの人は、カツオブシや煮干しのダシには反応がありません。
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/23 09:35
Tonkatsu, non-seafood shabu-shabu, yakitori (salt flavored only), and yakiniku (non-marinated dishes) should be safe as the ingredients preclude the use of fish or seafood. Okonomiyaki may also be fine as you can choose ones without seafood. Just stay away from the sauces and soups.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/23 16:45
shabu-shabu soup contains fish dashi.
Okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and related dishes all contain fish dashi.
I think most of Japanese food contain fish dashi.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/23 16:59
shabu-shabu soup contains fish dashi.

I suppose it *could contain fish dashi, but all the recipes I've seen were just konbu dashi. I'm sure you could easily specify that you only want water and no dashi of any kind.

Okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and related dishes all contain fish dashi.

Vegetarian okonomiyaki options shouldn't contain fish dashi, and recently it seems that more and more okonomiyaki places have these options (which are truly vege).

I think most of Japanese food contain fish dashi.

Yes, agreed. But hopefully the OP's husband is not allergic to fish stock.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/24 01:32
I'm sure the OP is used to this, but again, it's all about authenticy. And it's not about "recipe" but it's about "ingredients."

For example, just by looking at the ingredient lables (which not many consumers seem to do) of ready-made food or instant food, you will notice that a surprising variety of foods contain some kind of fish extract. And very often, even ordinary housewives would throw in "dashi-no-moto" instant fish broth powder just to make everything taste better.

Anyway, if the allergy is not criticle, a little bit of fish broth shouldn't hurt at all, but if it is you need to be careful. And again, chefs are often understanding and cooperative.

By the way, all okonomiyaki comes with a shaved-fish topping and sauce that typically contains fish extract, unless you make your own at the table.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/24 09:59
I'm sure the OP is used to this, but again, it's all about authenticy. And it's not about "recipe" but it's about "ingredients."

I'm not sure there's actually a distinction here, but otherwise I would agree that authentic restaurants may be able to be more accommodating.

By the way, all okonomiyaki comes with a shaved-fish topping and sauce that typically contains fish extract

Except for vegetarian okonomiyaki and a few others that may not come with bonito shavings. It's dependent on the place though so it's best to ask. And definitely avoid the sauce.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/24 21:49
Okonomiyaki batter (or dough) contains fish dashi already. if you remove fish dashi from that, the resulting Okonomiyaki tastes very badly.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/25 08:29
This thread is becoming the model example of why Japan has the reputation of being obtuse toward vegetarianism.

Luckily there are an increasing amount of vegetarian and vegan restaurants around the cities that you can choose from. These places know their stuff so you should be safe eating there. However, if your husband is seriously allergic to fish and seafood then I'm not sure I'd stake his health on a chef at a non-vegetarian restaurant.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

vegetable and vegetarian 2014/12/25 21:49
This thread is becoming the model example of why Japan has the reputation of being obtuse toward vegetarianism.

No, people on this thread are simply talking about two different things while agreeing on the same concept.

1. Do you get fish-free dishes if you order authentic vegetarian versions in Japan? I think we all agree that the answer is yes.

2. Is it common to find authentic vegetarian okonomiyaki at any okonomiyaki restaurant? The answer is no.

And one more, in fact.

3. Can foreign tourists tell the difference between a mom & pop okonomiyaki place (where the owners are nice enough to put in fish extract in your food unelss you say no) and an authentic vegetarian restaurant? The answer is no.

A lot of people here including myself are just saying that you can't expect to get 100% fish-free food just by ordering "vegetable okonimiyaki" or yakiniku or curry or what not. You need to order "vegetarian okonomiyaki."

Again, all the OP needs to do is to book in advance or talk to the chef. But she can't order food and expect it to be 100% allergen-free just because of the name of the dish. That's all we're saying.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/25 21:53
Let me make it really simple, just one more time.

You can go to almost any restaurant in Japan and have fish-free dishes prepared IF YOU ASK IN ADVANCE.

I've done similar things for Hindi guests and for my own allergic son.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/25 23:09
This thread is becoming the model example of why Japan has the reputation of being obtuse toward vegetarianism.

That was in reference to the timing of ken's post about okonomiyaki batter containing dashi as we were talking about vegetarian okonomiyaki. I just found the timing to be rather apropos regarding obtuseness toward vegetarianism.

From the perspective of a resident I generally agree with what you are saying about ordering. However, I think we need to look at it from the travellers perspective which may require a different approach.

1. Do you get fish-free dishes if you order authentic vegetarian versions in Japan? I think we all agree that the answer is yes.

I would add the caveat that authentic vegetarian versions may only truly be available at vegetarian restaurants. In my experience, chefs at regular restaurants cannot reliably omit fish and meat products from non-vegetarian dishes to make them vegetarian. Not reliably enough that I would trust them with my food allergy. You may be able to order fish/seafood free dishes if you can be really specific about what you require, but that may already be too difficult for for non-Japanese speakers.

2. Is it common to find authentic vegetarian okonomiyaki at any okonomiyaki restaurant? The answer is no.

Agreed, see my last comment. I think this basically applies to all types of restaurants.

A lot of people here including myself are just saying that you can't expect to get 100% fish-free food just by ordering "vegetable okonimiyaki" or yakiniku or curry or what not. You need to order "vegetarian okonomiyaki."

Agreed, you have to specifically order vegetarian. Except for yakiniku, which I think is easy to order fish free, as a lot of the items are literally just meat. And you can pretty easily avoid anything that is marinated in a sauce. Picture menus also help.

Again, all the OP needs to do is to book in advance or talk to the chef.

That may be simple for us, but for most travellers that may already be too impossible. That's why I think we need to break it down to dishes that can reliably be expected to be seafood free, which I think there are enough of that the OP's husband can get by with.

But she can't order food and expect it to be 100% allergen-free just because of the name of the dish. That's all we're saying.

Yes, you can actually. For example, no one has mentioned mori or zaru udon/soba yet. This is a common trick for vegetarian travelers in Japan as it is basically just noodles (presuming you don't eat the sauce/tsuyu). And on the converse, there are many dishes that you should definitely avoid because they can be expected to contain dashi.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/26 00:25
there are no guarantee that vegetarian Okonomiyaki never contains dashi, or a ingredient derived from fish.
how can you guarantee that all of vegetarian Okonomiyaki have no fish ingredient ? You don't know their recipes, don't you ?
Vegetarian people have no healthy problem, if they accidentally eat fish, although they don't want to take it.
there is an extremely large difference between vegetarian and allergy people.
vegetarian is a preference, and allergy is a disease.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Safe food for fish allergy 2014/12/26 01:49
The fact that you even ask these questions only further proves my point.
by yllwsmrf rate this post as useful

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