Trying different ethnic cuisines is an easy way to introduce kids to new kinds of food and to expose them to another culture’s language, smells, and décor (even if it’s 1970s Restaurant Style). Experiencing another culture’s food also helps expand a kid’s definition of “food.” For example, our local Taiwanese place serves jellyfish — we don’t expect our daughter to eat it, but it’s a good idea for her to know that people eat all kinds of things.
I was lucky to spend time in New York City and Miami as a child. These are great eating towns, mainly due to the wide availability of ethnic food. Eating Puerto Rican-Chinese food as a small child did a lot to seal the deal on my future food obsessions and sense of culinary adventurousness. I wanted to do the same for my daughter, so by the age of 2, she had eaten Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Salvadoran, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Ethiopian food. None of the food we gave her was particularly challenging, but by exposing her early to what we like to eat she is now more willing to try different foods.
The Seattle area has a wide variety of ethnic restaurants to try, but you can also get into the ethnic zone by cooking at home. Like any other adventurous eating project, your kids might not take to it overnight, but repeated exposure helps. (Disclaimer: Lest anyone think my kid is some kind of poster child for adventurous eating, rest assured that she’s a medium-level eater. She’s annoyingly picky and vegetable-resistant like the rest of them.)
Here are some ideas for introducing your kid to ethnic food, by culture. Note that the restaurants I mention are just a suggestion. It’s all a matter of taste, so explore different places until you find your favorites.