Chinese Food and Kids – Noodles and Dumplings
As with many nations and regions, food plays a significant role in Chinese culture. In fact, Chinese noodles and dumplings reflect a meaningful part of the cultural identity of China and its regions in the way they are prepared, their symbolism and meaning, and origin stories.
Here are some facts about Chinese noodles and dumplings, and some ways that you and your family can enjoy these delicious dishes either at home or out on the town.
Noodles are representative of traditional Chinese values, beliefs, and cultures. People eat various types of noodles for different occasions, seasons, and festivals. In addition, the way Chinese noodles are prepared and eaten reflects historical and regional differences in the vast country of China.
There are reportedly more than two-thousand different cooking methods for Chinese noodles. This is partly due to the more than four-thousand-year history of noodles as part of Chinese culture. Across millennia, ingredients and cooking methods have grown in variation as much as they have become symbolic of traditional values and cultural changes.
Dumplings date back to Ancient China, approximately 1,800 years ago. They are a favorite food due to their delicious flavor and the variety of ways they can be prepared. Typically, dumplings can be boiled, steamed, or pan-fried. Many dumplings are made of dough, but sometimes the wrap is made of egg (egg dumplings).
In addition to the variations in wrapping and cooking dumplings, the fillings offer several combinations and possibilities. Many families create their own methods and recipes for making dumplings. The origin of this food in Ancient China had a filling of lamb, black pepper, and a few herbs. With time, traditions have grown such that each type of dumpling filling signifies something important.
Here are some examples:
- Beef filling: believed to encourage financial growth
- Fish filling: thought to signify surplus of wealth for the diner
- Cabbage filling: believed to bring good luck and wealth for 100 years
- Celery filling: signifies diligence
- Mushroom filling: thought to bring fortune and wealth to those who eat them
One special dumpling tradition takes place during the Spring Festival Eve, when the people who make the dumplings often hide a coin inside one. This is believed to bring prosperity to the one who finds the coin in their dumpling.
To Make or Take (Out)?
Though there are recipes and tutorials online for making Chinese noodles and/or dumplings, by all accounts it is not an easy process. Though you may feel up to the challenge, chances are that your kids will become frustrated, impatient, and possibly lose interest along the way. In this case, however, you and your family have a great opportunity to experience authentic Chinese noodles and dumplings by ordering take-out or having a meal at your local Chinese restaurant.
Some parents feel anxiety about bringing their children out to eat in public, and would rather keep the potential chaos and unpredictability at home. This is understandable for many reasons, especially if your kids are very young and/or have special needs. For those parents who would consider taking their kids out to a Chinese restaurant, there are a surprising number of benefits to this experience:
- Most Chinese restaurants are family friendly
- Their menus offer a wide variety of foods so that everyone can try at least a few different foods
- You’ll find authentic and delicious noodle and dumpling dishes
- Your family can enjoy the ambience, décor, and other special cultural touches
- Children will have the chance to practice their table manners in public
- The whole family can create memories of dining and being together
Of course, it may take a few tries before your kids are consistently pleasant and attentive while dining out. One way to convey your restaurant expectations is to “practice” at home. You can set your family table, make creative placemats, and even design a menu from which to make selections. Better yet, you can order Chinese take-out of noodles and dumplings so that your family can sample them at home first without the pressure of being in an actual restaurant. Your “practice” restaurant may inspire your kids to truly enjoy and embrace the real thing.
No matter how you decide to incorporate Chinese noodles and dumplings into your family’s cuisine, these dishes are an excellent window into China’s cuisine, history, and culture. And as your children are exposed to wonderful, different foods, they will understand the joy of new experiences, tastes, and ideas.
Food can be an excellent opportunity for kids to learn about different regions of the world and their cultures. Eating appeals to all five senses, and can connect families through shared and memorable dining experiences. Our mission at Cognisprings is to design and sell toys and other products that we want children and their families to share and remember. Our food puzzle, for example, allows children to identify colors, shapes, sizes, healthy food groups, and even ingredients they recognize from their own kitchens.
Cognisprings is dedicated to creating educational, sustainable, safe, and fun toys, games, books, and puzzles that encourage children to explore the world away from digital screens. Children are naturally curious, and their cognitive, emotional, and physical development are enhanced through playing games and solving puzzles. In addition, our products encourage family togetherness to build a brighter future for our kids and the environment in which they will grow.