Be inspired to try the flavors of East Asian cuisine and find resources to learn about the countries located there.
East Asian food is possibly one of the most familiar cuisines to children but there are a lot more kid-friendly flavors to explore in East Asian food beyond teriyaki chicken. This resource guide can help direct you to new flavors, new recipes, and lots of kid friendly resources to help you connect the food with the cultures they come from.
Table of contents
If you haven’t yet, go over the guide on how to teach children to be world explorers. It’s a good place to start so you have an idea of ways to connect the food we eat with learning about those places.
I think one of the most important things to note about Asian food is that there is a vast variety of styles and influences due to the sheer size of Asia. So many countries are in Asia like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Dividing up Asia into smaller regions allows for a better representation of the different styles. For this particular guide, we are focusing on the cuisines of East Asian: China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan.
I am always adding new resources as I find them so please keep checking back for new shows, books, and virtual field trips.
- Include Known Favorites. East Asian cuisine is so versatile because you can add in pretty much any vegetable you have on hand! I always try to add in a few that are different colors or sizes to add some visual variety. Make sure that at least one is something that your kid already loves, and try one that they might not be so familiar with.
- RICE! Rice is a great fall back because kids love it! It’s easy to make, its helps dilute new flavors and sauces, and its a basic staple for East Asian cuisine.
Top ten flavors of East Asian cuisine
- Ginger– Ginger is a fragrant spice that is often used both fresh and dried. You can buy fresh ginger and keep it in the freezer unpeeled in a freezer ziploc bag for whenever you need it.
- Miso Paste– A fermented bean product made with soy beans and salt and mixed with various spices, miso paste is high in sodium but adds lots of umami (aka savory) flavor to dishes. Miso soup is a kid friendly starter with it’s resemblance to chicken noodle soup.
- Chinese 5 Spice– Chinese 5 spice is a key ingredient in many pork recipes. The spice is commonly made up of a blend of cinnamon, star anise, ginger and ground cloves. Some recipes add peppercorns or other spices.
- Soy Sauce– Soy sauce is made from fermented soy beans and has a very strong salty flavor. The less common form of soy sauce is dark soy sauce which differs from the soy sauce most people are familiar with. Dark soy sauce is richer and darker because of the added molasses which also adds sweetness and thickness to the sauce. Dark and light soy sauce are not interchangeable but they can be also be used together.
- Sesame Oil– Mostly used as a finishing oil or in dressings, Sesame oil is very aromatic oil. Due to it’s strong flavoring a little goes a long way.
- Rice Vinegar– Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice and is commonly used for sauces and marinades.
- Scallions- Scallions, also known as green onions, are used across the board as a garnish when finely chopped. Larger pieces can be lightly cooked and their mild onion flavor doesn’t overwhelm dishes.
- Oyster Sauce– Made from oyster extract, oyster sauce adds lots of flavor and really adds some richness to dishes. It is a bit sweet and salty and dark in color.
- Hoisin Sauce– Thick almost like barbecue sauce, hoisin sauce is sweet and salty. Can be used in sauces or as it’s own dipping sauce.
- Shiitake Mushrooms– Readily available at many grocery stores, online, and in Asian markets, dried shiitake mushrooms add a wonderfully rich savory flavor to dishes. You can use them whole or sliced depending on your preference and the dried mushrooms keep well in the pantry for months.
Tools and gadgets for cooking and eating at home
- Kid-Friendly Chopsticks– chopsticks were the only way I could convince one of my children to even try noodles! Kids get more involved in trying to master a new skill and focus less on the new to them foods they are trying.
- Wok or Stir Fry Pan– a flat bottomed non-stick wok or stir fry pan is the best all around choice for home cooks and work well on all stove top types.
Additional Kid Friendly Resources
You can also find lots of great playlists on Spotify. Search for playlists by searching terms like “Japanes pop” or “Chinese traditional”. Here are some specific albums that are more general that we enjoy:
- Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
- A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
- Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin
- Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
- The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
- Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang
- Magic Ramen by Andrea Wang
- Kubo and the Two Strings
- Kung Fu Panda
- Wild China (on Netflix)
- Ghost of the Mountains (on Netflix)
- Born in China (on Netflix)
- Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney+)
- The Last Airbender
Virtual field trips
- Chinese Lunar New Year virtual field trip
- China virtual field trip
- South Korea virtual field trip
- Japan virtual field trip
Kid friendly recipes
Great bloggers to follow
- Just One Cookbook- Easy Japanese recipes
- Wok and Skillet
- My Korean Kitchen
- Tiny Urban Kitchen- Taiwanese recipes
Recipes on my site
- Slow Cooker Honey Chicken– A good starter recipe for kids, this chicken combines familiar flavors with new ones like hoisin sauce for a sweet and sticky main dish.
- Lime teriyaki oven baked salmon– Again, using familiar flavors you can introduce a new protein source to kids that is super easy to prepare.
- Cantonese inspired Black Pepper Beef– Coarse grind black pepper is the star of this dish made of steak, peppers, onions, and green beans.
- Thai Style Peanut Chicken Rice Bowl– The peanut sauce for this dish is out of this world. Serve it up with the kids favorite vegetables and allow them to make their own bowl. Having ownership of the dish helps them be excited to try new things.
- Japanese Style Pepper Steak– Made with steak and peppers, this dish is so easy to prepare and can be ready in 30 minutes.
- Korean BBQ Burger– A classic meets the rich flavors of Korean BBQ! A Korean BBQ patty is topped with a sweet and tangy coleslaw that packs ton of flavor into so few ingredients.
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs– This Chinese restaurant staple gets a twist using easy homemade meatballs. Kids love helping chop the peppers up!
- Slow Cooker Korean Style Short Ribs– Korean BBQ is super popular and for good reason. This can be made in a slow cooker for an easy weeknight dinner.
- Instant Pot Chinese Pork Shoulder Soup– The rich broth of this soup is also the cooking stock for the pork shoulder. It is perfect for a cold busy night and is incredibly satisfying.
- Mango and Mandarin Orange Duck Salad– Containing many of the flavors listed above this salad can be made with duck or chicken depending on how adventurous you are.