I never get tired of Thai food. It is simply put one of my best ever cuisines. Sadly, while my children were growing up one liked it and the other one wouldn’t even entertain the thought of it. I was chatting to a few of my Thai friends about children and Thai Food and how they introduced the wonderful hot flavours to their own children’s diets and the answer was very slowly. My children, especially my first born, ate from my table at a very young age and loved becoming acclimatized to spices in their food, especially cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and ginger and garlic. From the age of two my eldest son was picking at curries and loving it.
If you have children, or have ever had to look after some, you will know that after trying to get them to keep things tidy, the next most difficult task is getting your child to eat “different and new” foods and flavours. Many parents fall into the path of least resistance and end up feeding the same foods week after week and only ever visiting the same restaurants which serve the “safe foods.” Fortunately for us parents, more and more restaurants and take-away stores are offering healthy, but more importantly tasty, options for kids and adults alike. Simply Asia, South Africa’s oldest Thai Restaurant Group, offer great dishes that all include a variety of vegetables – cleverly disguised – and low-fat protein like lean-meat satays, cashews, peanuts or tofu.
The Thai food chain, which started in CapeTown and now has restaurants across the country, serves more than a million meals a year and has noticed that more and more families, especially with younger children, are becoming regulars. According to Chai Lekcharoensuk – founder of Simply Asia and fondly known to all in the industry as Mr. Chai – this is not surprising. “One of the big attractions, for kids and adults alike, are our Theatre Kitchens, found in all of our sit-down restaurants, where families can watch the chefs in action, wokking the dishes with blazing flames. It’s a great thrill.”
The other attraction is, of course, Thai flavours and the Thai way of eating. “In Thailand,” he says, “children are not fed different meals to adults. It is very common for a child to sit on his or her parent’s lap and be fed straight from the same bowl so that children eat the same nutritious foods as adults.
“Even the traditional Thai custom of using a spoon and a fork to eat is beneficial when it comes to feeding the kids – there are no massive chunks of meat to cut up so a knife is unnecessary and you don’t have to use fiddly chopsticks. Food is placed on the spoon with the fork before being eaten, which is something most children can achieve.”
Some of the signature Thai dishes that have become increasingly popular amongst the children visiting the restaurants are Ba-Mee Phad Sie-Eiuy (505), which consists of crunchy cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and spinach stir-fried with egg, fried garlic and yellow noodles, with your choice of either chicken or beef, in an irresistible mix of dark sweet soya and stir-fry sauces. The 314 dish, or Khao Phad Thai (Thai Fried Rice) is a firm favourite amongst Simply Asia’s younger fans – Jasmine rice fried with onions, tomatoes, spring onions and egg in a delicious stir-fry sauce.
For the children that are looking for something small to nibble on, the Chicken Satay (104) and Sweet Corn Cakes (103) are both tasty and kid-friendly treats.
The Thai way of eating – where each diner has their own bowl of clean rice but shares lots of different communal dishes set in the middle of the table – also makes it easier for kids to try new flavours. “We encourage sharing so, there’s bound to always be a dish they will enjoy. Some are quite sweet because of the addition of coconut and many children start enjoying Thai by first eating these dishes, before moving onto spicier soups and curries,” says Mr. Chai.
Some handy pointers to help get your fussy eater to try new things:
1. Keep it fun: This is easy to do when the whole family is sharing several dishes. You can also make tongue twisters out of the Thai names for dishes.
2. Offer them bites of your food: Once again, the Thai concept of shared meals makes it easier for picky eaters to sample what mom and dad are having, especially if they look like they’re really enjoying it.
“Even if you are getting take-aways,” says Mr. Chai, “you can add a sense of fun to the occasion. Once you get home, spread a blanket on the lounge floor and have an ‘indoor Thai picnic’. Switch off the TV and enjoy sharing different dishes. Your child will be more open to new things if they’re done with a sense of adventure.”
3 ears of sweet corn
1 Tbl Chopped fresh Basil
2 Large Spring Onions chopped
2 Tbls Chopped fresh coriander
5 ml chopped fresh mint
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 Tbls Green Madagascar Peppercorns in brine (only for adults)
2 large eggs beaten
Tbls Corn flour
½ cup flour
5ml Palm sugar or Brown Sugar
1 Tbls fish sauce
A few pinches of salt
Remove the kernels from the cob and roughly chop.
Combine the remaining ingredients together in a bowl and mix well
Heat oil over a medium heat, drop in a tablespoonful’s of the mixture into the oil and cook till golden and then flip over and cook the other side until golden.
Serve with Wellingtons Sweet Chilli Sauce (only for the adults).
© Jenny Morris/Giggling Gourmet 2004 – 2015