Eating Soy-Free at a Korean Place in NYC

Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!

When Ashley and I go out to eat, we do a bit of research beforehand to pick a restaurant that seems like it will have some soy-free options. We look at online menus and even call ahead if we have a specific question. This works great when it is just the two of us, and Ashley can find something to eat that is soy-free almost everywhere. 

Sometimes, though, we go to dinner with more people, we don't get to pick the place, and we do not have the opportunity to do research ahead of time. Here is a story from a vacation to New York City in 2015 that ended up being possibly the most difficult soy-avoidance situation we have run into (where Ashley successfully has not eaten any soy).

image via pixabay

image via pixabay

In January 2015, Ashley and I went to New York City for a couple of days to see family. We timed our trip with several other family members, so there was a large group of us (~15 or so) who were all there at the same time. We all thought it would be fun to go out to dinner as a large group the night before people started to return home. Since there was such a large group of people (and we don't live in NYC) Ashley and I didn't really have a say when the restaurant was picked. We were out sightseeing that afternoon and didn't know where dinner was until late afternoon.

That afternoon we learned that we had a dinner reservation at Madangsui, a Korean BBQ place very close to the Empire State Building. As you might have guessed, Korean BBQ is heavy on the soy. We expected it to be challenging to eat soy-free there, but we didn't have much of a choice since we were part of a big group. We made a plan to talk to our server to see what soy-free options were available.

Madangsui is a pretty-standard Korean BBQ place. And, when we talked to our server, we learned that everything had soy. Every meat was marinated with soy sauce, and every sauce had soy sauce and/or vegetable oil. Every single menu item contained soy. We had originally hoped that Ashley would be able to eat around any soy dishes. Since you cook your own Korean BBQ at the table, Ashley thought she could avoid soy by being careful about what she cooked. Obviously, this wasn't the case--there was really no option for soy-free food!

image via pixabay

image via pixabay

So what did we do? We ate dinner there...kind of. Tom ate dinner there (which he found to be very delicious), but Ashley was only able to eat a small plate of raw vegetables for dinner. It was all that the restaurant could offer that was guaranteed to be soy free. After "dinner", Ashley was naturally starving, so we grabbed some dessert (and possibly several snacks).

It is worth pointing out here that while our meal ended up being a really challenging experience for us, our server was extremely gracious and understanding. She was happy to look things up for us and help us figure out something that Ashley could eat. This again shows that restaurants are more than willing to help with food allergies or intolerances.

We look back on this experience now and laugh, but at the time it was really challenging! Have you ever gone to dinner and then not been able to eat anything? It can be very isolating and depressing. Since that time we've developed practices, like having a backup snack, to make sure that Ashley always has some food to eat if we are ever in a similar situation. We know that while we try our best to avoid this type of experience, it is likely to happen again.