Wagamama – a truly great experience when eating out with allergies

I’m going to continue my ‘eating out with allergies’ series as it’s an area where I’m always looking for help and recommendations, so maybe my comments and reviews may help others too. Click on the ‘Eating Out’ tab for previous recommendations 🙂

I don’t know about you but eating out causes us some serious anxiety. Often we’ll think, oh wouldn’t it be nice to not have to cook for once and eat out instead. Then I spend ages trawling through the options online with the following thoughts running through my brain; ‘is there anything safe on offer, how seriously will they take our requirements, is it going to end badly, is it worth going out if it’s for something so simple and plain it would be easier to make it at home?’

More often than not we stick to one of our usual favoured chain restaurants which can seem more reliable in catering for allergies, or we just stay at home. Whilst it can be successful, the stress of trying a new location can simply be too much, tipping the meal from enjoyable to tense and uncomfortable. Little S often goes very quiet in restaurants, it’s like she isn’t at ease and is carrying a load of worries. Do any of you find this to?

Often the easiest and most relaxed way to guarantee a good safe meal is by staying at home, but that’s not so much fun….

When people first mentioned Wagamama as a good allergy friendly destination we inwardly scoffed – how could a Japanese style restaurant which actively sells a lot of food with sesame, peanuts and other nuts be suitable for us? So we dug our heels in and didn’t try it for ages. Then one opened near us and we took the plunge with Big S (just milk allergic so Japanese food is a fairly safe option) whilst Little S was on her first school residential (which had it’s own stresses, but that’s another story!)

Wow, were we impressed! The whole service is incredibly slick, and caters for allergies in a caring but professional manner. The manager is the only one who will take allergy orders, ensuring responsibility is taken by the person in charge and they always refer to the allergen menu which is a great reassurance. Big S can have a lot of items on the menu and now she’s a teen it’s fab to have a cool, safe and really popular restaurant she can head to with friends.

Little S’s options are fewer (free-from milk, eggs, peanuts and sesame) but still she can have an actual dish from the menu which is always fresh and tasty and doesn’t require us to bring bits from home, or for copious alterations to make it suitable. For reference Little S has the grilled chicken Katsu with Amai sauce and it’s been successful every time she’s had it (and that’s loads of times).

Children’s grilled chicken Katsu with Amai sauce

The only problem we’ve come across was the disappointment when the breadcrumbed chicken Katsu started to be cooked in the same oil as a dish containing cottage cheese, making it unsuitable if you have a dairy allergy. This was pointed out by a manager and then suddenly it all made sense why Big S had been sick a couple of times after eating the regular Katsu; there was a new dairy cross-contamination. This had been Big S’s favourite dish so she was mightily disappointed to forego her choice, but she’s got used to the grilled version now.

Grilled Chicken Katsu with sticky rice

Wagamama has grabbed with relish the rising popularity of vegan food and created an entire veggie and vegan menu, giving plant-based spins on their traditional favourites. This is a big bonus for me as a vegetarian as I’m more used to very little choice when eating out.

Vegetarian Yasai Katsu

So all in all, Wagamama is now a family favourite, relied upon for a safe and tasty restaurant experience. So much so we even visited a branch in Holland when we were struggling for safe options! If you haven’t, I’d recommend you to give it a go, it’s so nice not to have to cook every day!

Children’s Menu

Teriyaki aubergine skewers

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Teriyaki – full of umami and lip smackingly good! I nearly used tofu, but aubergine won in the end, partly because the triangles on the skewers look so pretty. It is essential that the aubergine is thoroughly cooked to give that slightly burnt on the outside, but slippery silky centre that only a good aubergine can provide. If it’s undercooked the aubergine remains woolly and squeaky – not a pleasant taste experience.

I cooked these in the oven, but the flames of a barbecue would be a great alternative for providing even more flavour.

Teriyaki Aubergine (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)N.B. contains soya

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For the teriyaki:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (use a gluten-free brand to make the dish gluten-free)
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp mirin or sherry
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp honey/maple syrup/agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp corn flour

– Dissolve the cornflour in the water
– Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and gently cook until the mixture starts to thicken.
– Set aside

For the skewers:

  • 1 aubergine, cut into chunky slices, then each slice quartered
  • 1 tbsp salt

– Place the aubergine in a colander in the sink, sprinkle over the salt and leave for 30 minutes to extract any juices
– Wash and dry
– Thread onto skewers and brush with the teriyaki
– Leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes
– Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade until very soft in the centres

To serve:

– Plain white or sticky rice
– Finely sliced spring onion

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