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Hidden Wheat

June 17, 1993|JIM BURNS

When you have a wheat allergy and dine in restaurants, you've got to know a little about the hidden flour in foods. For example, you can expect problems not only from the obvious bread basket but also from thick soups, gravies and sauces, puddings and custards--all of which may be at least partially flour-thickened.

It's far better to be insistent with the waiter and the chef than to find out the hard way 12 hours later. You can enjoy ice cream, but skip the cone.

Here's a mini-guide to restaurant eating that has served me well for the past five years:

Mexican: A good way to go, since many dishes are corn-based rather than wheat-based. And you get the option of corn or flour tortillas as a side order.

Italian: Probably the worst choice, but, hey, you can always ask for the risotto. Sometimes the memory of bucatini all'amatriciana or just plain spaghetti aglio e olio makes me want to cry.

Fast food: Stick with salads without croutons. I used to wonder why I would feel sick after eating French fries (aside from the wonderful grease). Turns out that the grease is saturated with flour from other fried foods. Also, watch that short-order grill. It is the abode of many a pancake or waffle that could leave you waffling later.

Asian: Believe it or not, soy sauce is full of--you guessed it--wheat. Instead of Chinese food, try Thai or Vietnamese food, since fish sauce, not soy sauce, is a base for these cuisines. Or bring your own bottle of tamari.

Indian: Don't bother. Every single time I am cheered by the lentil-based pappadam appetizer and give tandoori "something or other" another try--whammo.

Middle Eastern: Not bad, if you can live without those fabulous pita breads or can tolerate the miniscule amount of wheat used in many falafels.

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