You don’t have to travel all the way to China with your family to experience the country, especially the food. And you don’t have to take the kids to a Chinese restaurant either to eat what Americans think is Chinese food. Here are a few simple dishes you can prepare at home and that are popular with my children at least.
Egg rice: The easiest by far – simply scramble some eggs then mix in some rice (add diced sausage or other meat if you like). So easy and my kids gobble it up.
Chow mein: Sounds exotic, but is fairly easy if you have the ingredients. Cook up some noodles, then let them cool. Fry some meat and whatever vegetables you like, with some onion and spices, add the noodles and voila, there it is. Oh, don’t forget to sauce it up with some soy. Add a touch of hoisin for a bit of extra flavor.
Dumplings: Making “jiaozi” takes a bit of work, but that’s all the more reason to employ the help of the whole family. If you have an Asian or international store near you, chances are they sell the dumpling skins, which will save you a lot of work. To make the filling, any my husband is better at this, mix some ground meat with eggs and starch and whatever ground veg you want (carrot, eggplant, cabbage, etc). When it’s a good sticky consistency, place small amounts on the skins. Wet the edges and fold over and seal. Steaming is a good way to cook them, but boiling works as well. If you have leftovers, try frying or lightly baking them for a nice crispy taste.
Eggplant and tofu: Formerly two of my least favorite foods before I moved to China. The easiest way to eat tofu is to just buy a box at the supermarket, drizzle some soy sauce over it and if you like some diced scallions. My kids love this. Now I like it fried up with anything. As for eggplant, cook with some diced chicken and lots of ginger and add some cilantro for a delicious dish.
I don’t bother cooking Kung Pao chicken when I’m in China as it’s cheap to eat at a restaurant, but when in the US I have some good recipes I found online. It takes some work, but is very possible to make well at home.
In fact, just sautéing any veg with some soy sauce and garlic is a great way to give an oriental feel to any meal.
Jenny Lin is raising 3 boys in Beijing while working as a writer/editor. You can follow her @twinlins or keep up with her sporadically updated cross-cultural familial adventures at beijingmom.blogspot.com