Gluten Free Palo Alto California Asian Box Restaurant Review

March 11th, 2012 yum Posted in Bay Area, Palo Alto, Restaurant Review, Vietnamese 2 Comments »

Asian Box
Town and Country Shopping Center
855 El Camino Real #21 Palo Alto, Ca.

The Celiac Bay Area Yahoo support group has been hopping lately with the news of a new restaurant in Palo Alto with a completely gluten-free menu. Not only is everything in the restaurant naturally gluten-free, but it is a vietnamese-influenced asian menu that is often off limits to gluten-free diners due to wheat based soy sauce. They use gluten-free wheat-free soy sauce at the Asian Box, and seem to be very dedicated to creating a safe and delicious dining experience for their gluten-free patrons. Their menu is the creation of “Executive Chef Grace Nguyen, formerly of Charles Phan’s famous Slanted Door and Out The Door’s Bush Street location.” (Asian Box Web Site)

They just opened recently, and the restaurant is not completely finished yet, with inside tables missing their counters at present. Do you see the big gluten-free sign on the wall? Small details like that really make me feel comfortable eating at a restaurant. Besides that, the staff is young, helpful and cheerful and the food is fast and absolutely delicious. Speaking of the food, the menu isn’t on their web site, which is currently as sparse as the inside of the restaurant seating area. However, I found a photo on twitter that shared the menu, so here it is for you to enjoy:
Asian Box Menu:
Pick a base :
Short Grain Brown Rice
Long grain Jasmine Rice
Asian Vegetable Salad
Rice Noodles
Pick a protein:
Chicken (6 spice)
Pork (lemongrass)
Beef (garlic and soy sauce)
Tofu (coconut curry)
Shrimp (Lime Basil)

Finally, Top with Vegetables (steamed or spiced), and pick as many garnishes as you like (jalapeno, bean sprout, fried shallots, scallion oil, chopped peanuts, fresh herbs, pickled veggies, fresh lime, and caramel egg).
Then pick a sauce from tamarind, sriracha, fish sauce, Asian street dust, hot box sauce, and peanut sauce.

A few of the toppings (caramel egg, peanut sauce) cost extra, but otherwise your meal price is based on the protein you select.

I picked the coconut curry tofu and paired it with brown rice, peanut sauce, and all the garnishes except jalapeno and caramel egg. I also had them add the “Asian Street Dust”, a spice blend.

This was the finished dish. When it arrived, I dove in enthusiastically and was not at all disappointed. As the DH said, this dish had some of my favorite flavors and could have been something I made at home, but with a little more variety added by the pickled vegetables and bean sprouts. The fried tofu was perfect, and I loved the combination of flavors. I have always been jealous of the DH when he goes to vietnamese sandwich shops here, not so much because of the sandwich but because of the yummy and interesting pickles that he gets to add on to his order. I was making “nom nom nom” noises just like the Youtube cat, and ended up having a friendly conversation with another diner who said she had heard from Vietnamese friends to “watch for Asian Box” because it will have really authentic and tasty food. She loved it too! You can also order slushee machine type vietnamese coffee (that some reviewers on Yelp said had a chickory taste), iced tea, and lemonade. We just stuck with water, though. I will definitely be back. One thing I would say is that I don’t know if the other dishes will be as perfect for me as this one was. However, I’m eager to try the different bases like the rice noodles, and can’t wait to try the side spring rolls, although I may be harder to impress with those because they are so easy to make at home. Although it isn’t my thing, other people on the Celiac Bay Area boards also raved about the (non veg) jerky.

Town and Country is turning into quite the gluten-free destination with Calafia and its gluten-free menu, Trader Joe’s, and now Asian Box. The latter is bound to turn into my go-to place to eat in Palo Alto. I will note that it isn’t the most filling portion ever, but actually, given the tendency of fast food restaurants to overload their customers with empty calories, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Wouldn’t you like to have some?

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Gluten Free Vegan Vegetarian Vietnamese Recipe: Vegetable Pho Recipe

May 26th, 2009 yum Posted in Soy Free, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vietnamese 6 Comments »

vegpho3vegpho10The other day in my never-ending quest to find a ladies room (ah the joys of pregnancy), I waddled into a local noodle shop. Everyone around me had slurp-worthy bowls of noodles, many with rice noodles, piled with fresh basil and veggies and non-veg items. They all looked delicious, but of course most probably weren’t completely gluten-free, and they certainly weren’t vegetarian. But, I was inspired- and had a mission. I wanted to create a truly vegetarian, gluten-free noodle bowl similar in style to Pho but with my own twist. I rifled through the refrigerator and found tons of fresh veggies to add to my dish… which resulted in a thoroughly unique and absolutely delicious vegetarian “pho” recipe that I slurped down with absolute gusto. Mmm. Who says you can’t make a vegetarian pho? Certainly not me!


Gluten-Free Vegetarian Pho Recipe
Soup  Vegetables  Asian  
8 cups water with 4 Edward and Sons Not-Beef soup stock cubes
1 small unpeeled onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
a 1-inch piece of ginger, coarsely sliced
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp szechuan peppercorn
3-4 allspice berries
generous sprinkling white pepper

for the soup:
1/2 pound rice noodles
1/2 bunch of chard, separated into stalk and leaf bits or 1/4 napa cabbage
1 small section of broccoli florets
2 green onions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1/2 cups bean sprouts (soybean sprouts also ok)
smoked or sweet paprika, chili powder, or chipotle powder
sesame oil
8 ounces fried tofu, sliced or cubed *optional*
a good handful of basil, mint or cilantro leaves, left whole
sesame seeds
1 lime, cut into wedges

Start by making the broth. Add your onion, garlic, ginger, and other spices (through white pepper) to a large dutch oven and stir, dry roast for a few minutes. When the onion and garlic start to char, slowly add the water with stock cubes added and bring up to a boil. Lower heat and cover, simmering for around half an hour. Strain solids out and discard, reserving the broth, returning it to the dutch oven and keeping it on low heat. Taste and season with any additional salt or white pepper as needed. Add chard stalk and let simmer while you assemble the other ingredients. Add chard leaf or napa cabbage close to time you are ready to serve. Alternatively, simply blanch chard stalk along with other veggies.

Soak noodles in boiling water for 15-20 minutes, or until soft. Blanch in cold water and let drain. Blanch broccoli until crisp but no longer raw. Blanch bean sprouts or soybean sprouts- the former very briefly, but boil the latter for 3-5 minutes before rinsing in cold water. Keeping veggies separate, drizzle with a touch of sesame oil and massage so it is evenly distributed on each veggie, and season with paprika, chili powder, or chipotle powder.

To serve, pile rice noodles in individual bowls and pour broth over to heat. Add veggies, blanched (broccoli, sprouts, chard/napa cabbage), tofu (optional, leave off for soy allergy), and fresh (green onion slices, fresh herbs) . Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with lime and more fresh herbs if you like. Enjoy! You can also put fresh herbs, fresh veggies, hot sauce, lime etc. on a plate and let people add to their own veggie noodle bowl.

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