Before we left Canada I was worried about finding food my six year old would eat in Asia. I had a picky eater on my hands. My oldest son has a very particular idea of what tastes good to him and has a love of things plain and starchy. He does not like to try new things and usually will decide on looks alone whether or not he likes something.
We have a rule in our family that all things must be tried once. If you don’t like it after one bite you don’t have to eat it but you do have to try it. Our friends call this the No Thank You Bite. I like that.
Our first week into our trip no one in our family felt like getting adventurous with our food. We were in Hong Kong and I was suffering from horrible jet lag and culture shock. We all craved familiarity and we ate at the golden arches more often than I care to admit.
Our second week we were feeling much better in Penang and Mike and I were determined to get our children enjoying Indian food. Instead they took their No Thank You Bites and they ate a whole lot of naan and plain rice. Luckily we had a kitchen in our apartment and were able to prepare proper breakfasts and snacks. Mangos, bread, and eggs to the rescue!
On the bus trip from Penang to Thailand with the well traveled Miller family, our driver stopped for lunch at a mall. We all trucked up to the third floor food court while we chuckled at the fact that our driver would think we would be needing western chain restaurants to fill our bellies. We walked around the food court and my kids refused to eat anything. Embarrassment of embarrassments our family trucked back down to the first floor. Mike and I hung our heads in shame as we once again scarfed down at McD’s.
Time to get serious. We needed our kids to eat the local food or get malnourished trying! We laid down the law that when we went out to restaurants we would only order Thai food. We started with things we knew they would love because we had had them back home. Chicken satay, spring rolls, and Tom Ka became our mainstays.
Our next step in our food exploration was to order our sure-thing items and also add in one dish that we had never tried before. The kids had to take a No Thank You Bite and low and behold they actually liked some of the dishes! Stir fried broccoli in oyster sauce, stir fried mixed vegetables, fried rice, fat noodles in Thai gravy, and udon noodles are now crowd pleasers.
They have come a long way in our six weeks of traveling. Every week we find new things that they enjoy as well as quite a few that they don’t. But the important thing is that they are trying new things and exploring the cuisine of Thailand. Now every once in a while we even let them order something western at a restaurant!
One of the things that greatly helped in this process was having our own kitchen to cook in. We don’t have to eat every meal out and I can cook family favourites like breakfast for dinner, spaghetti, or veggie sandwiches. This has allowed the kids to get the familiarity they crave and I think it helps them to be more willing to try new things when we are out. We are even branching out and adding some Thai meals at home. Tonight we made our first Masaman curry and added enough coconut milk to even out the spice. The kids loved it and I now have something new to add to my cooking repertoire back home!
Have you traveled with picky eaters? What did you do?