Samui Wining & Dining
Monster Munch

As a Westerner on holiday in Asia, feeding the kids can be tricky.


8Some say that the best part of travelling and exploring new places is sampling the local cuisine. Often, it’s tastes and smells that trigger happy memories when you’re back home. However, kids don’t always share their parents’ sense of adventure when it comes to trying new foods.

      Experiencing new things keeps us young, apparently. Well children, being young already, don’t share this sentiment. In fact, anyone with young children will know how much they like familiarity. That’s why they’ll watch the same DVD 100 times and still laugh at the ‘funny bits’, even though they know what’s coming. And that’s why they want the same thing for dinner every night. To us – boring. To them, familiarity means safe and comfortable. Only when we’re older do we enjoy venturing out of our comfort zones.

      So what are you to do as a parent who’s keen to try the region’s delicacies but the little ones want their old favourites? Well, it can be done. But it takes a bit of preplanning and careful negotiating too. There’s a little give-and-take involved, sometimes giving in and eating what they want in order to keep the peace. After all, it’s their holiday too!

      Well let’s start with babies. They are the easiest really. The island has several large supermarkets, all of which stock a fair selection of Western products including big brands of baby milk formula, plenty of dairy alternatives for sensitive tykes such as rice and soya milks as well as jars of pureed fruit and vegetables. So it’s easy for them, just stock up at the supermarket with baby food, add a few bananas to your beach bag and you’re ready to go.

       It’s from age two that things get tricky and only calm down again on the taste front from about eight years old. Set the scene: You’re on holiday in exotic Thailand, and keen to explore new surroundings with all your senses. You’re at a beach restaurant and the waiter brings the menu. You ask the kids what they want… and that’s when it all goes pear-shaped. The adults in the party get excited to try unheard of dishes on the menu, even taking a chance and ordering items that they can’t pronounce. Little Jimmy on the other hand wants his beans on toast (replace with particular favourite item from home), and causes a scene when it’s not available.

       For children, most foods are an acquired taste and have to be tried several times before the taste buds decide that they like it. So don’t give up. Start with the more neutral Thai dishes such as fried rice or chicken satay as well as plenty of fresh fruit. And even if that’s all you manage, it’s a pretty balanced meal (protein – check, carbohydrates – check, fruit and veg – check). From there, get a little more adventurous each time. Sure, they’re not likely to be eating green curry and three-chilli pad krapow moo by the time your holiday is over, but they’ll slowly start acquiring a taste for different flavours.

      If that fails, with such a diverse expat community on the island, there are plenty of Western restaurants to choose from as well as fast food chains such as McDonalds and KFC. Most of the Western restaurants will also have at least some Thai food, so you’ll be able to compromise as they get to eat their favourites and you get to eat local. The resorts will usually have both Thai and Western food options and often a dedicated kids’ menu too. Breakfast is seldom a problem, usually of a buffet variety and you can fill them up for the day on scrambled eggs, pastries and fresh fruit.

       When in doubt, head for one of Samui’s many Italian restaurants, as you can’t beat pizza and pasta to keep most kids happy. And most restaurants will be able to at least serve plain chicken and rice as a last resort. Even some of the fine-dining establishments have good kiddies’ menus. Of course there are the sports bars serving regular burgers and fries and a choice of Irish pubs where you’re bound to find something for the kids to enjoy.

      Nothing gets the kids eating their dinner like the promise of dessert. If you choose to walk your dinner off while strolling the shopping strips or beach, why not try local street food stands selling sweet treats such as homemade coconut ice-cream (perfect for a hot day), and of course the pancakes are a winner with adults and kids alike. Fresh fruit shakes disguised as milkshakes are a great way to get the fruit intake for the day. If you’re on the beach, little ones will have great fun ordering from a ‘beach kitchen’. Try grilled corn on the cob or chicken satay with sticky rice, or fresh mango and pineapple.

         So don’t let whining kids put you off enjoying your holiday dining experience. Just come to terms with the fact that few kids enjoy adventurous eating, and you’ll need to compromise and slowly entice them into enjoying new food. The choices on Samui are endless and you’re bound to find places that cater to both you and the kids. Just wait a few years until you introduce them to pig intestine soup, crispy chicken feet or deep-fried crickets!


Rosanne Turner


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