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12 Family-Friendly Foods From Around The World That You Can Make At Home

A world of kid-friendly foods, right in your own kitchen.

Erica Silverstein · 2 months ago

  • cooking
  • travel

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I love to try new recipes at home, but my kids generally turn up their noses if I’m not serving “kid food” like pasta, nuggets, and hot dogs. But a few dishes outside the kid food standards have made it into the rotation, and the kids will devour egg drop soup, beg for their grandmother’s kugel recipe, and slurp up any Asian noodle as long as it’s not spicy. Which got me thinking about what dishes kids in other countries love for dinner, and whether I could sell my little American palates on kid food favorites from around the world.

I turned to the kid food experts — my circle of mom friends — for the inside scoop on the international dishes they make at home that the whole family loves. Here are their crowd-pleasing recipes.

1. Bihon Pancit from the Philippines

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Let’s start with the “kids love noodles” theme. Bihon pancit is a rice noodle and chicken dish that’s ubiquitous in Philippine restaurants and beloved by picky toddlers. Switch out the chicken for extra veggies if you’re not meat eaters. Fun fact: Noodle dishes are often served at Philippine birthday parties because noodles represent long life in the culture.

2. Lamb Kofte from Turkey

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Mmm, meatballs! Take this spaghetti staple and spice it up for a Turkish treat that kids (and adults) of all ages love. Lamb kofta are served in Turkish restaurants with rice and salad, but you can serve yours sandwich-style wrapped in flatbread or as kebabs on skewers. Somehow new food is always more enticing if you can serve it on a stick.

3. Plokkfiskur from Iceland

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Plokkfiskur is to Icelandic kids what mac & cheese is to Americans — the ultimate comfort food for a chilly winter night. This creamy fish and potato stew is not difficult to make at home, and it’s best served with warm bread and butter. (Dark rye bread is traditional, but if that raises eyebrows, perhaps have a more familiar bread at the ready for dipping.)

4. Empanadas de Pino from Chile

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Every culture has its version of meals wrapped in dough, suitable for eating quickly without utensils, and palatable for all ages. Chile’s is the empanada, and the traditional pino filling is made from ground beef, raisins, black olives, and spices. Tell your family the empanadas are homemade hot pockets and watch them dig in.

5. Molokhia Soup from Egypt

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“My kids adore it and ask for it almost daily.” You can’t get a better recommendation than that — especially for a green soup! The dish that elicits these accolades is Egyptian molokhia soup, made from the leaves of the jute plant. In the U.S., you’ll need to hit your local international store or Middle Eastern market to find frozen molokhia. Serve it with rice and roast chicken, and see if your family becomes green food converts.

6. Arroz Con Gandules from Puerto Rico

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Arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas) is not only a kid favorite, but part of Puerto Rico’s national dish, along with lechon (roasted pork). Little fingers can make a quick mess of rice and peas, it’s true, but serve this meal with tostones (fried plantains) and we bet that more food will end up in their mouths than on the floor.

7. Dumplings from China

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Did you know that dumplings are a staple of Chinese New Year feasts because they represent wealth? (The shape is reminiscent of gold pieces in ancient China.) Not only will kids snap up these doughy concoctions, they can help make them too. While pork is the traditional filling, your family can choose another type of ground beef or fake meat to go inside — whatever will get them coming back for seconds, thirds, and fourths.

8. Kinder Schnitzel from Germany

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Nuggets. We simply can’t resist meat that is breaded and fried. If your family goes ga-ga for nuggets, whip up a batch of kinder schnitzel, a mini version of traditional German schnitzel. German families eat these with lemon squeezed on top; they’re also good cold and in sandwiches. But if serving them with ketchup is the only way to get your family’s buy-in, we won’t call you out for being inauthentic.

9. Croquetas de Jamon Serrano from Spain

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Another reported favorite of the picky toddler, the Spanish croqueta is akin to a deep-fried ham and cheese sandwich, though (surprise!) no cheese is used to make the creamy filling. Instead, the croquette dough is made from bechamel sauce and diced ham. (Vegetarian families, there are versions for you, too.) As with kinder schnitzel, you can present these as nuggets to the skeptics in the crowd.

10. Kimbap from Korea

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Kimbap is a Korean picnic food that is similar to Japanese sushi, albeit with different rice and condiments. It’s ideal for lunch on the go and can be prepared with any number of fillings. One mom suggested skipping the dried seaweed wrap and rolling the fillings like lettuce wraps instead. Her kids prefer a combination of cucumber, imitation crab, fresh and pickled veggies, and fermented bean paste.

11. Pierogis and Lazy Pierogis from Poland

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Another dough + filling combination on our list of favorite foods for the whole family comes from Eastern Europe. Pierogi are synonymous with Poland, and the key to making these potato dumplings authentic is to use dry curd cheese (ricotta will do) and not cheddar. Short on time (what family isn’t)? Try leniwe pierogi (lazy dumplings), which uses similar ingredients, but incorporates them all into the dough, no filling required. Serve them with butter and sugar — no one can resist that combination!

12. Chana Masala from India

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Got a gaggle to feed? Chana masala is a go-to, kid-favorite dish for Indian families looking to feed a crowd. This chickpea stew is healthy and allergy-friendly, and it can be made mild or spicy to your taste. For the most authentic flavorings, drop by an Indian market to pick up ghee, chole masala, and dry mango powder. Serve it with rice or naan; kids love the buttery bread on its own or as an edible scoop for the chana masala.

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