We have always striven to eat together as a family. It’s a great way to reconnect at the end of the day and it is helpful for modelling table manners and eating behaviour. What can be more difficult is serving something that everyone will like. I am not opposed to making separate dinners on the odd occasion, but, ultimately for me I would rather cook the one meal and make slight variations to suit everyone.
It’s really important to me to introduce and maintain a varied diet with our children and I decided that we would have a food tour of Asia all from the comfort of our dining table which I thought would be a fun way to challenge their taste buds and we could chat about the various cultures we were ‘visiting’. I especially wanted to engage Mr 5 in this as he is my most resistant to new foods but unfortunately he was unwell all week. Another time, another tour.
Firstly, just a few guidelines I follow when introducing new foods that I thought I would share:
- No pressure, if they try it great (and I given them praise if they do) but if not, that’s fine too
- Serve new foods with food you know they will eat – that way you don’t worry that they haven’t eaten enough and are tempted to give in to requests for other foods after dinner
- Family style serving is a great way to introduce new foods as it gives the older children control over their portions and choice of what they would like
First up was a visit to South East Asia where we enjoyed a delicious Malaysian Fish Curry. I used chicken instead of fish as I didn’t like the varieties of fish that were available when I did the grocery shop. The curry is very mild and creamy so very suitable for children and I love that it pairs well with a salad so it’s nice and fresh. The recipe is easy to make ahead and as I had work all day I needed something that could cook in 15 minutes. I made the curry base and the salad the night before and had already cut the chicken when I was portioning and freezing to make for quick food preparation during the week so it was just a matter of cooking the chicken in the curry, cooking the rice and pulling it all together. I served the curry with rice, salad, wholemeal flat bread and crunchy noodles. Mr 5 ate the noodles, the salad, a minuscule amount of rice but did not want any curry. Mr and Miss 18 months demolished theirs. Winning.
Next up to Thailand where we dined on the classic Thai Green Chicken Curry. My good friend Fritha introduced me to this while we were living together at university and I have been eating it ever since. This style of curry is normally quite hot but I make this quite mild – especially as we share this as a family but also as I am still learning to love the heat of curries. So if you prefer a hotter curry you can always add more chilli during the cook or curry paste at the beginning but I would recommend if this is a one dish meal for the whole family err on the side of caution and make it mild and only heat at the later stages of cooking after you have taken out a serving for the kids. I served our Thai Green Chicken Curry with rice, prawn crackers and wholemeal flatbread. Mr 5 didn’t have this at all and ate toast instead as he was unwell. Again, Mr and Miss 18 months loved theirs and devoured it all. Go twinnies!
Thai Green Chicken Curry
Peanut or other heat tolerant oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
Thai Green Curry paste to taste*
500 grams of chicken breast sliced
1 can (425grams) coconut milk
1 large carrot sliced thinly
1 tbsp of fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves finely chopped
50 grams whole green beans (top and tailed)
1/2 red capsicum diced in large chunks
1 small zucchini sliced
- Heat oil in wok over medium heat and cook onion and ginger gently until soft. Around 3 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook for a further minute or so.
- Add the chicken and stir through onion and pasta mix until evenly coated and cook until the chicken is sealed for a further 3 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and carrots and stir through. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Add the fish sauce, sugar, lime leaves and the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 4 minutes.
* I use Ayam brand and to start with I use a generous teaspoon and if required I adjust the heat by adding more at the end of cooking after the kiddies’ portion has been served.
Next stop – Japan. Japanese is probably my personal favourite Asian cuisine and I especially love Gyoza or potstickers. They are tasty and fun and a perfect food for kiddies. For our taste of Japan we dined on Gyoza, edamame, sweet potato kusabi with wasabi mayonnaise and Asian greens. I made a dipping sauce that is a lovely accompaniment to the Gyoza but is equally as delicious with the greens. Mr 5 was still not well so he didn’t partake of this meal but Mr and Miss 18 months thoroughly enjoyed it. They have a genetically inherited love of Gyoza so it was a case of who could eat the most the fastest.
Pork Gyoza with Dipping Sauce
500 grams pork mince
40 gow gee wrappers
3 spring onions finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 2.5 cm ginger finely grated
1 tbsp of coriander finely chopped
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sweet Thai Chilli sauce
1 tbsp oil (high-heat oils such as sesame or peanut)
3/4 cup of chicken stock
- Place all ingredients except the oil and chicken stock into a bowl and mix well to combine.
- Add around one tablespoon of the mixture in the centre of one wrapper, brush the edges of the wrapper with water and fold the wrapper in half, pressing the edges firmly to seal (I like to use a fork which also adds a lovely decorative element to the dumpling).
- Heat oil in large pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the Gyoza to the pan and cook for a few (4 minutes or so) minutes until the underside has browned.
- Add the stock, cover the pan and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes without lifting the lid.
- Add your Asian greens (if using) and cook covered for a further 3-4 minutes.
To make the dipping sauce, mix the following together in a small bowl:
2 parts light soy sauce
1 part rice wine vinegar
chilli to taste
2 tsp chopped chives
This recipe makes around 4-5 Gyoza per person and I normally serve with sides so depending on how many people in your family and you will have enough to freeze for another night. To freeze a portion, place the uncooked Gyoza on a tray lined with baking paper,ensuring that the Gyoza do not touch. When they are frozen solid transfer to a freezer bag for easy storage. You can cook the dumplings from frozen just add a few of extra minutes to the cooking time.
Next country on our food adventure was China with the classic San Choy Bau. I have been serving variations of this for some time and this was one of the first family style serving where Mr 5 started tasting foods he never had before.I normally serve everything separate, the washed lettuce leaves (iceberg is ideal), the cooked pork mixture and the vegetables cut up and unmixed and then Mr 5 can choose what he likes. He normally asks for a wrap instead of a lettuce leaf to wrap the filling in and I am fine with that. For Mr and Miss 18 months I mixed the vegetables and cooked pork together with rice and they loved it. Mr 5 ate the filling with a wrap as he was starting to feel better.
San Choy Bau
1 tbsp of peanut or other heat tolerant oil
500 grams pork (or chicken) mince*
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp of ginger grated finely
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp brown sugar
Fresh vegetables of choice to serve. I normally use thinly sliced capsicum, thinly sliced sugar snap peas, grated carrots or peeled carrot ribbons, diced cucumber, fresh chilli (keep separate), thinly sliced spring onions.
Fried shallots to serve
Iceberg lettuce leaves
- Prepare the lettuce and vegetables and place in serving dishes.
- In a wok over medium high heat add the oil and then cook the pork mince and any vegetables you wish to cook through (if using – see note).
- In a bowl, mix together the hoisin, cooking wine, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar.
- When the mince is cooked through add the ginger, garlic and stir fry for a minute before adding the sauce mixture for a further 30 seconds and stir through the cooked pork mixture.
- Remove from heat and place in serving bowl (if serving family style this will minimise the burn risk).
- Serve in lettuce cups with the fresh vegetables and fried shallots.
*Occasionally I also add vegetables to cook with the pork mix, normally mushrooms or asparagus so for younger toddlers and babies you can add more vegetables while cooking the mince so they are softer to eat.
Staying in China for the last night of our food tour we enjoyed Chicken Chow Mein. This is one pan dish and didn’t have any variations except for cutting the noodles, chicken and vegetables into more manageable pieces for the little ones so is a very easy family dinner and can easily be made on a busy week night. I often prepare all the separate components the night before to make it an even quicker cook the next night.
And there you have it. A quick, quite possibly in-authentic (and I might add pretty incomplete!) food tour of Asia. I think we definitely will be visiting again very soon.