Eating in Asia

Feeding a 7-Year-Old in Asia

How to eat a potsticker when you're too tired to work the chopsticks properly.

How to eat a potsticker when you’re too tired to work the chopsticks properly.

I have to admit, I was nervous about traveling to Hong Kong and Macau with a 7-year-old boy. The Assistant is a good eater, but it’s one thing to eat something unfamiliar for one meal, and something entirely different to eat unfamiliar foods for all meals.

Fortunately, our hotel in Hong Kong featured a continental breakfast, so he started each morning with some combination of fruit, yogurt, juice, croissants, cereal or ham and cheese (and often two or three of these things). Starting with a solid breakfast made the remainder of the day a little less stressful. I also packed a solid supply of Kind bars and trail mix, in case of emergencies.

Sampling dim sum selections.

Sampling dim sum selections.

In Hong Kong, we made lunch our big meal. It wasn’t planned that way, but it just happened to work out well: a nice, long, sit-down break while out sightseeing. Economically, it worked out very well, because most restaurants have midday fixed price meal deals where you choose from a special lunch deals that include an entree, drink and sometimes soup. In addition to a cafeteria-style restaurant that had a little of everything, both eastern and western, we also had pizza — Pizza Express, a London favorite, is also in Hong Kong — Indian and dim sum.

For dinner, we got adventurous. Our hotel was in the Sham Shui Po district of Kowloon, which is a gritty, non-western area of the city. The Husband had already traveled through mainland China for two weeks before joining us in Hong Kong, and he informed me that this was the most Chinese, least western area that he’d been to. This was fine except for the complete lack of English on any sign or menu within walking distance from our hotel. Sensibly, The Assistant was reluctant to eat anything that we couldn’t explain to him. What are parents to do?

Enter the Dragon Centre. It’s a mall (sort of). Think of an outdoor strip mall, complete with everything: some mid-sized anchor stores, small dollar stores, and tiny booths like a flea market. Now, because it’s a busy city and land is at a premium, stack those stores on top of each other and create a 9-floor indoor mall. That’s the Dragon Centre.

On the 8th floor of the Dragon Centre is a food court. You’re probably thinking about the food court at your local mall. Take that, reduce every vendor to a small unit about 6-8 feet wide, and cram four dozen of them into a small space. Make sure that all menus are exclusively Chinese, though a few have helpful photos to accompany dumbass Americans who only can point and signal that they want one of those, while everyone watches the out-of-place white people. Now you have an idea of our nightly dinner. This worked out surprisingly well, though. We found an awesome place that made killer potsticker dumplings (pan fried pork dumplings, yum!) and another that served dörner sandwiches, just like in Germany. The assistant also found a place that served waffles topped with ice cream for dessert, though he was somewhat less thrilled when he discovered that in addition to his two scoops of ice cream, his waffle was also topped with sweet adzuki beans.

I had been excited to go to Macau for its Portuguese heritage and food. I had visions of feijoada stew, which was reportedly common, and delicious pastries. This was not reality. Mysteriously, there appeared to be few sit-down restaurants outside the casinos; most things in the tourist areas were grab and go to eat while walking, though I really don’t understand how it’s possible to eat hot pot-style soup while on the move. This is obviously some sort of acquired skill. On our first day, we had pork chop bun, which is the most popular food in all of Macau, judging by the fact that it’s prominently featured at every third eatery.

There are also a surprising lack of breakfast options in Macau, unless you want to pay a fortune to your hotel for eating in. We went out scouting for a coffee shop, but nothing other than Starbucks was open before 11:00. I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Starbucks. When you’re hungry at 8:00 in the morning, wandering the streets of Macau, it’s an exciting discovery. (Why are there no restaurants open in the morning in Macau? Maybe because the only people on the streets at that hour were us, school children, and hookers. Lots and lots of hookers.)

Thank you, Wynn, for feeding us massive quantities of food.

Thank you, Wynn, for feeding us massive quantities of food.

On the second day, The Assistant and I were out touring the city when lunchtime rolled in. We had already walked about 5 miles that morning, so we had already crossed the line into hangry and unreasonable. We passed shop after shop, none of which had tables or any place to sit down and eat. “It looks like McDonalds is the only place with tables,” I said to The Assistant. “Forget it. I’m not that hungry,” he replied. We ended up finding a great cafe at the Wynn hotel where he got a schnitzel sandwich that was larger than his head. “I’m so glad we waited!” he said.

Also, Wynn: thank you for the only unsweetened iced tea anywhere (served with two kinds of sweetener on the side).

Also, Wynn: thank you for the only unsweetened iced tea anywhere (served with two kinds of sweetener on the side).

All in all, the trip was a total adventure. The Assistant says that he had a great time and would go back immediately if not for the 15-hour flight.

How adventurous are you and your kiddos when it comes to eating unfamiliar foods?

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