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Big Bowl adds gluten-free menu

Big Bowl, an Asian-themed casual-dining chain, is launching a gluten-free menu, including a wheat-free beer.

Executive chef Marc Bernard has replaced soy sauce with tamari and gluten-free oyster sauce in many of the dishes, according to the eight-unit Big Bowl, which is a division of Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.

All of the ingredients and utensils for the new menu are kept separate on the line and in storage. A chef must sign off on each gluten-free order, and a manager rather than a server will bring the food to the customer.

The menu is now available in Chicago and its suburbs and will be introduced over the next two weeks in its other locations, Big Bowl said.

The menu has two appetizers — a vegetable summer roll and a Thai chicken lettuce wrap — and such entrées as chicken and broccoli, kung pao chicken, orange chicken, Mongolian beef and shrimp with snow peas.

Pad Thai, made with rice noodles, is also on the menu, along with two desserts: a lemon ginger crème brûlée and a “mochi of the moment” — ice cream wrapped in a chewy, sweetened rice coating.

The beer, New Grist, is a certified gluten-free ale made in Milwaukee.

Mama Fu’s a 13-unit Pan-Asian chain based in Austin, Texas, rolled out a gluten-free menu in March that also relied on tamari, as well as a "Mama’s" sauce the company developed that was meant to replace East Asian brown sauces.

The market analysis firm Datamonitor recently predicted that the $3.1 billion global gluten-free market would grow by $1.2 billion over the next five years. It said $500 million of that growth would be in the United States.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].

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