Before I became gluten free I used to be semi regular at a local Chinese takeaway but in the last 18 months I haven't been to a Chinese at all as no local takeaway seem to understand Coeliac, however I had heard word multiple times about Sweet Mandarin in Manchester having a gluten free menu and knew at some point I would have to try it.
Prawn crackers and a selection of Sweet Mandarin gluten free sauces at Sweet Mandarin, Manchester
The opportunity took a while to arise as my boyfriend is extremely fussy when it comes to food and the only chance I would get to be able to try Sweet Mandarin would be when I was in the area with my Mum, eventually, after many months, we got the opportunity to go and I am so glad we did.
We booked in advance making them aware that I would require a gluten free menu, on the day we arrived and said who we were the staff were fully aware that I needed the gluten free menu, greeting us all the time by first name and making us feel at home. "Can I get you any drinks while you look at the menu Alison?". Sharing a bottle of water, we took our time deciding what to have, it's so rare I get to eat proper Chinese that I was struggling to decide what to have, however I was given more time to choose when my Mum suggested starters.
We asked for two lots of prawn crackers and I was happily asked "Alison, do you want both gluten free?", as my Mum isn't gluten free we said it didn't matter if her's was or not. Everything gluten free is cooked separate and different utensils used too, the staff are fully clued up and highly knowledgeable and what's more nothing is too much trouble.
Gluten free beef and green peppers in blackbean sauce and egg fried rice at Sweet Mandarin, Manchester
Our prawn crackers arrived with some sauces, "Alison, do you know we have our own range of sauces? You do? That's great! These are sweet chilli and barbecue. Have you tried those before? I'll go and get you some others to try too". I had tried the sweet chilli before but not the barbecue, tucking in to our prawn crackers and sauces (the barbecue was delicious!) the lovely lady serving us came back with another 5 bottles of sauces proclaiming they were all gluten free including wasabi, hot chilli and cantonese, we sampled a bit of each and they were all delicious. At this point my mum announced I had a Coeliac website. When it's just me I keep quiet about Coeliac Sanctuary, usually because I am unsure what the people will think, but not my Mum, she has to proudly announce it everywhere. The lady grinned with enthusiasm and said "oh my, really, that's amazing Alison! Make sure you get photos of all the sauces!"
Once we finished the starter it was back to decide on mains, my mind flipping between a prawn sizzler and beef in blackbean sauce, I finally opted for the latter and a side of egg fried rice, that was my usual option in a Chinese as I love the dish so much so decided I had to have that. Again they asked Mum if she wanted hers gluten free even though the dish wasn't on the gluten free menu, so I presume they can also adapt some other dishes, again she said it didn't matter as long as mine was gluten free.
Only 5 minutes later our order came out, steam rising of the freshly cooked meals, and it was amazing. I either forgot how good Chinese food was or this was better than anything I had ever had before. Unlike my usual takeaway, the fried rice was barely coloured and still had a whitish colour unlike the dark brown, soy sauce soaked version from local takeaway. This one was fried with tamari sauce and was so tasty and not in the slightest greasy like some fried rices. And the beef in blackbean was to die for, I could have eaten it all night and I am glad I have some of their blackbean sauce in my cupboard at home for future use. The dish was packed with beef slices and veg and certainly wasn't sparing in size and the taste was just divine!
My Mum and I at Sweet Mandarin, Manchester
During our meal the staff asked if we minded having our photo taken as they like to take photos of all their customers for their Facebook page, we agree and they took our photo, later uploading it onto social media. Once we had finished the staff like all the way through the visit chatted away about gluten free and how they have regular Coeliac visitors. The place was amazing, I was nice to be greeted by first name instead of Miss or Madam, it felt like they knew you and it was fabulous that everyone knew what what they were doing in regard to gluten free, especially when they knew as soon as I arrived I needed a gluten free menu, everyone was so on the ball and polite, it was an honour to eat there and I certainly have no hesitations about going back again when I am in the area.