Gluten-Free In Anaheim: True Shabu

True Shabu 4Sometimes your brain works in mysterious ways. I was sitting with Dr. Cuz and Auntie Jude, talking about stuff while taking a break from cleaning out Auntie Boogie’s condo. Somehow I remembered my friend, Hordus, who I found and reconnected with after my trip to L.A. in August, was living in Southern California again. I couldn’t remember exactly where so I pulled out my phone and started going through our texts.


We were in the same city. So of course I texted him to tell him I was in town.

Mind you, it was twenty-five years since I last saw him. I can’t remember when the last time I talked to him was though. He was still living in St. Louis and Chaz and I were still in Louisville.

Does that really matter?


What matters is that Hordus was like another best friend to me.

We met in church in high school. For a long time it was him, Jerm, and me that made up our Youth Group. Which was fine with us most of the time. We did enough together that it didn’t really matter. Sure some people would show up every summer to join us for Summer Camp, then we wouldn’t see them again. But that’s okay too. The three of us stuck together.

Hordus loves his puns and to most people he might have appeared to be a young hot-headed teenage football player. Sometimes he was. But he was also someone I didn’t need words to communicate with. He understood me in a way no one else did and I never really appreciated it until I moved back to Hawai`i. I have no other friend like him on this Earth and I couldn’t imagine anyone else being like him.

There was a time when the adults around us thought we were dating. No. Nope. Never happened. Not even once. Just good friends who could make each other laugh, smile, and feel better when things were shitty. That’s all it ever was.

So, having the opportunity to see him again for the first time in decades was not to be wasted. Yes, we had lots of work to do, but we all needed to eat. Right?

Our reunion was…the longest hug in history. How do I know? I just know. And in the midst of grief and stress, he was a perfect ray of sunshine. Exactly what I needed to relieve the darkness.

Hordus, being the great friend that he is, researched places where I could safely eat. Turns out his girlfriend has food allergies too and she’s still learning what they are and what she needs to avoid.

We went to True Shabu, a restaurant that only does shabu shabu. If you’ve never heard of it, think of it as Japanese fondue. You build a broth in a pot and cook your vegetables and meats in it. At the end, you cook the broth down and add the noodles and you have a wonderful soup.True Shabu

Chef Saifon makes her own sauces, a pressed pomegranate and a sesame. They are made in-house, of course, and she knows all the ingredients in them. They both have gluten-free soy, so if you are avoiding soy, you can ask if she can make you some without (which she says she will do even if they are busy). The noodles that come with the vegetables are rice noodles and are naturally gluten-free. There are also other types of gluten-free noodles you can add for an extra charge. The udon noodles on the menu are definitely NOT gluten-free. Don’t go near them.

The chef was mostly well-versed in gluten-free but most of her education is online and she brought up something about mushrooms being controversial about their gluten-free status. This was the first I heard of it and told her I never had problems with mushrooms before and didn’t know why they wouldn’t be gluten-free. Chef Saifon wants to be able to provide every diner in her restaurant with a good experience, believing every chef should be able to do so in their establishments no matter what their food restrictions are.

I may have forgotten to mention this, but right before I flew out to California I was cleared for soy again. So, I did not partake in the soy-free experience. Hordus’ girlfriend, however, did. And somehow tofu got on her plate and into her soy-free broth. This is where, the chef and the staff could have done a better job. The broth should’ve been dumped when she saw it, but it wasn’t. There was also the old saying, too many cooks in the kitchen. We had Chef Saifon helping us along with one other staff and I’m not sure the soy-free needs were communicated between them.True Shabu 6

With that hiccup in mind, I didn’t have any issues. While Hordus ordered udon noodles, they went into his pot and was nowhere near mine. I enjoyed my meal since I’m used to ordering only sushi when we go out for Japanese food and making other Japanese dishes myself at home. This was a great experience with great company.

My caution would be to watch everything carefully. They are very hands on in teaching people who have not been before. This is how the tofu got in the soy-free broth. One of the other guys working came over and was helping out while the chef was in the back and didn’t know about Hordus’ girlfriend being soy-free.

That tofu was good though. It was my first piece of tofu since going soy-free almost two years ago. I stuck mine in the broth at the beginning and let it sit in there until right before I was ready to put the noodles in. Then I let it sit in the pressed pomegranate sauce. So, so good.

Would I go again? Yes. Would I take other people with me? Yes. Would I keep an eye on everything? Most definitely.True Shabu 7



  1. Debi, you are the best about catching up with friends and not letting the years apart stop you from contacting someone! That is really wonderful and I’m so glad you all met up and had such a fantastic and safe meal. It sounds like the chef there truly cares and is doing all she can to help those who are gluten free. The mushroom topic just came up recently in this post from Jennifer of Gluten-Free School dug deeper in an earlier article here: When the recent article was shared, several gf folks–folks who I know and trust–said they don’t eat mushrooms because of this factor and prior bad experiences. I’m not a big mushroom lover, and am one of the most sensitive to gluten, but I do eat them and have not tied any issues to them. It might be that the particular mushrooms I’m buying and eating are safe. I don’t eat mushrooms out. So I guess like most things, there’s research and a judgment call involved. Btw, I loved seeing gf mochi on that menu!

    Last, I’m so sorry about the loss of your aunt, dear. I know how much you adore your “aunties.” Sending you love and hugs,

    • Thanks, Shirley. That’s good to know. Maybe it’s time to give up mushrooms for a time and see if I feel an overall difference. Such a shame since I forced myself to like them right before going gf. lol And the chef really was wonderful. The gf mochi I had to laugh at because mochi is supposed to be gf and I don’t think I’ve ever come across mochi that isn’t. I really did enjoy reconnecting with Vic in person and we spent the following day together too, which I still have to write up, just so much going on. I still haven’t done a post from the retreat either. Life needs to slow down. And thank you for the condolences. My world is certainly much different without her in it now. xo

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