Middle Eastern food sounds incredibly exotic but many of the flavor combos you might be more familiar with than you may think. Kabobs are served all over the world and many of the ingredients you can find readily accessible in your kitchen. This is an extensive guide including a brief overview of Middle Eastern food and resources to interest children and get them excited about trying new foods.
If you haven’t gone over the above guide it’s a good place to start so that you can successfully introduce your children to new and adventurous foods. Here’s some things to get you started on your next food adventure- the Middle East!
Tips to make Middle Eastern food kid friendly:
Mix new ingredients in with old favorites– if your family has never had ingredients like lamb or eggplant before, they might be hesitant to try them. Start with ground lamb and mix it in with ground beef the first few times, the lamb will be less apparent and they can slowly become accustomed to it. I do the same with eggplant since my family isn’t a huge fan. I cut the eggplant smaller and use less the first few times I make a dish.
Top Ten Flavors of Middle Eastern food:
- Rice- rice features very heavily and is the staple grain in Middle Eastern cooking. They usually use long grain white rice like Basmati or Jasmine rice.
- Saffron- This unique spice is used in both sweet and savory dishes. A little goes a long way and the best saffron is in threads and not ground since most ground saffron is diluted with other similar colored spices.
- Turmeric- Turmeric lends a very unique coloring to dishes but like saffron, a little goes a long way. It’s used frequently but in very small amounts.
- Cinnamon- Another spice used in both sweet and savory dishes and something you are sure to have in your cupboard already. Although cinnamon sticks are best for drinks, ground cinnamon works just fine for everything else.
- Sumac- The tart and tangy taste of this spice is often loosely compared to lemons. It’s less common to find in stores but is readily available online.
- Garlic- Keep fresh and powdered garlic on hand because it’s used in both forms.
- Mint- Fresh or dried are added to salads, stews, and yogurt. Yogurt topped with cucumber and mint is often served at dinnertime.
- Yogurt- yogurt is used in side dishes, dips, and even marinades.Plain Greek yogurt is the best to use in Middle Eastern cuisine.
- Nuts- Nuts used plain or seasoned with salt and other seasonings are used. Of course they are tasty on their own as well.
- Dried fruit- Some of the most common dried fruits are apricots, dates, figs, and raisins.
Tools and gadgets for eating Middle Eastern food at home:
Although these aren’t 100% necessary, these special gadgets or tools will aid you in making Middle Eastern food at home.
- Mortar and pestle/ spice or coffee grinder– it’s suggested two have two separate spice grinders- one for saffron and one for everything else. Freshly ground spices have a much more intense flavor and aroma so it really is worth the extra effort. Grinding spices is a fun job for children to do! A spice or coffee grinder takes the elbow grease out of the equation.
- Rice Cooker or nonstick rice pot– If you make a lot of rice (and many countries throughout the world eat mainly rice) a rice cooker is a great investment. It is a set it and forget it appliance that makes it easy to have lots of rice ready to go without having to watch over it. The one I have also has a delay timer so you can use a slow cooker or instant pot and come home to a house full of ready to go food.
Additional kid friendly resources about the Middle East:
A big part of getting kids excited about new cuisines is introducing them to other aspects of the culture. Using music, books, and movies help spark children’s interest and open them up to trying new foods.
- Wild Arabia (Netflix)
- Little Pim- Arabic for Kids (Amazon)
Learn the language
Incorporating a new language into meal time is also a good way to engage children with the culture. Here are some resources:
We use the German and Spanish series at home and I love it. This is not about grammar or sentence structure. It’s learning applicable phrases that your family can actually use. There are also awesome activity boxes that you can get that are more focused learning activities like learning all about food and mealtime!
Kid Friendly Middle Eastern Food:
(more coming soon)