Olivia is a Nima College Ambassador and celiac warrior studying Computer Science at Harvard University. While only recently diagnosed with celiac disease, Olivia is determined to advocate for her health and gluten-free lifestyle with Nima. 

Hi! My name is Olivia Graham. I am a Junior at Harvard University, and I was diagnosed with celiac disease in May of 2019. But, before my diagnosis, I had booked a vacation to Thailand and Vietnam. I was still excited to travel to South Asia but I worried about how to navigate celiac disease in such a new environment. I had no guarantee that people would understand my dietary restriction. 

But, armed with my Nima, allergy cards in Vietnamese and Thai, and a suitcase stuffed with GF snacks, I made it work! Traveling in South Asia as someone with celiac disease is definitely not always easy, but it is definitely doable!

Peninsula Plaza, Bangkok, Thailand

#nimatested Dish: Pad Thai with Chicken 

Notes: Pad Thai was my best friend on this trip to Thailand. The traditional ingredients are gluten-free (rice noodles, chicken, tamarind paste, fish sauce, etc.) so I had a pretty high success rate with this dish. While the kitchen staff were initially confused by my request, I made it clear that no soy sauce or wheat flour could be used, and that it was necessary to use clean utensils. The kitchen then called me back fifteen minutes later to confirm that bean sprouts were safe for me. I was so happy to have this come back okay!

Results: Smile!

 

Novotel Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok, Thailand

#nimatested Dish: Larb Gai  

Notes: This dish was another one of my go-tos during my time in Thailand! Larb Gai is a dish with ground chicken, fish sauce, lime juice, chili and more. I loved finding staples that didn’t use soy sauce. This way, rather than asking the kitchen to substitute ingredients, I could just order the dish as it was meant to be prepared. This was served with rice and lettuce and was delicious.

Results: Smile!

 

Pad Thai stand near The Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

#nimatested Dish: More Pad Thai!

Notes: This made me so happy – I found a street vendor who only made Pad Thai. I could see all of her ingredients firsthand but was still pretty worried. It was so exciting to be able to try some of the local street food. I didn’t even tell the vendor that I had Celiac, but just tested the dish, given that it was the only thing she prepared. This cost less than 1 dollar!

Results: Smile!

 

The Shellsea, Krabi, Thailand

#nimatested Dish: Massaman Curry

Notes: Some dishes were much easier than others. This was a Massaman curry, with lamb. All of the Thai curries that I tested came back as gluten-free! Usually, they are made with fresh spice mixes and coconut milk. This was a really delicious safe option.

Results: Smile!

 

Intercontinental, Hanoi, Vietnam

#nimatested Dish: Rice Noodles with Chicken

Notes: Rice noodles with fish sauce were always a safe bet. This was a really tasty way to get some veggies and protein in and was reliably safe for me to eat. The kitchen staff were very responsive to my concerns. I always travel with allergy cards in the language of the country that I am visiting, and the kitchen staff seemed to really appreciate this.

Results: Smile!

 

Pu Luong Retreat, Vietnam

#nimatested Dish: Stir Fried Beef

Notes: Nothing I ordered at this hotel seemed to work out. It was especially tough because of how remote it was – we were in the middle of the Vietnamese countryside. This photo is actually from the second time that they prepared this dish. I explained which foods I couldn’t eat, and they seemed to understand. However, I believe that the surfaces may have been contaminated. No matter how hard they tried, this hotel just could not accommodate my needs. I think I had a gluten found at every meal. Mostly ate almond butter and white rice and fruit, but I was happy to know that I was keeping myself safe.

 

Results: Gluten Found

 

Quan An Ngon, Hanoi, Vietnam

#nimatested Dish: Fried Rice and Mango Sticky Rice

Notes: Tested both of the dishes!

Results: 2 smiles!

 

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