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Teaching Culture through Cooking

Using Chinese cuisine to teach children about the culture of China


by Rhonda Parkinson

For many of us, our first introduction to a new culture came though sampling its cuisine. Similarly, helping children prepare an ethnic recipe is a great way to introduce them to the customs and traditions of another country. This is especially true of China, where great importance is placed on the appearance and texture of a dish as well as taste. Recipes like Egg Rolls or Wonton Soup can seem quite exotic to an eight-year-old.

Here are some simple "child-friendly" recipes, along with a section on Chinese table manners that includes instructions on using chopsticks. I've also included resources on traditional Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year and the symbolic foods associated with them.

  • Scallion Pancakes
    Children love rolling out the dough and shaping the pancakes
  • Baked Chicken Egg Rolls
    These egg rolls are baked in the oven - much safer than deep-frying with large amounts of hot oil. It comes from Stephanie Gallagher, About.com Guide to Cooking For Kids.
  • Easy Thai Spring Rolls - There's no cooking involved in making these fresh spring rolls - you can cut up the vegetables ahead of time and then the kids can help assemble them. This recipe is from Vegetarian Food Guide Jolinda Hackett.
  • Wonton Soup - children can help combine the filling ingredients and fold the wontons, which are then boiled and finally added to a warming broth.
  • Almond Float
    A simple desert made with gelatin and canned fruit cocktail.
  • Korea and China?
    This excellent entry by two 12-year-olds in the Junior ThinkQuest competition has basic information about China and Korea, plus dishes that children can help make, from soups to dessert.
  • Hot Bananas in Coconut Milk
    In this recipe bananas are simmered in sugar, cinnamon, and coconut milk. (Note: This is an Indonesian version of a Chinese recipe for Banana Fritters. In the Chinese recipe the bananas are deep-fried in oil).
  • Almond Cookies

At the Table

Chinese Festivals and Festival Foods

  • Chinese New Year
    - All about Chinese New Year, China's most important traditional festival. Includes links to finding out your Chinese animal sign and horoscope.
  • Mid-Autumn Moon Festival- Learn about this Chinese festival celebrating the Autumn Harvest moon.
  • Mooncake Cookies
    A simplified version of mooncakes, made with chocolate chips
  • Mooncakes
    A very easy recipe with jam, great for younger children
  • Moon Festival Resources
    An excellent list of children's books about the Moon Festival, from the Family Culture site.
The Wok of Harmony- great lesson plan for teaching chinese cooking to children. Previous Features

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