Imparting good habits, knowledge and values to your children is something that every parent aims to do, but what about recipes? Whether it’s a familiar favourite or a heritage dish that’s been a part of your family for generations, or one easy enough for your child to whip up so they can be self-sufficient from a young age, teaching your child to cook is something that many parents cherish. Above all, whipping up a dish together also serves as precious parent-child bonding time, one that you will no doubt look back upon with fondness and pride.
“I think it’s important to teach kids to cook from an early age, because it’s such an important skill. I have a friend who taught her child to cook from the age of eighteen months. This inspired me to teach my daughter too,” says writer Lisa Twang, whose daughter Tully is four years old.
In addition, cooking teaches kids coordination, patience, and where their food comes from, Lisa continues. Tully, for instance, can now use a plastic knife to cut soft foods like cheese and mushrooms. She also helps her mum to wash rice. Furthermore, children also get a sense of achievement when they eat what they helped to make.
But what about the mess, you say? It’s part and parcel of the leading process, so make like Elsa in Frozen and let to go, mum. As Lisa observes, we can’t expect our kids to do things perfectly straight away. “Seeing Tully improve her cooking skills over time gives both her and I great joy.”
See what first dishes professional chefs and regular foodie parents have taught or will be teaching their child (no instant noodles here!). You could be inspired to do the same this “circuit breaker” season.
Kana Cai (preserved olive leaf) Aglio Olio by Bjorn Shen, Chef-Owner of Artichoke. He has two daughters aged three years, and six months
“The inspiration for this dish came from my late grandfather who loved eating kana cai. As a kid, I used to hate it but as I grew older, I learnt to appreciate it. Made of the simplest pantry ingredients, this dish is as easy as it gets, cooking-wise. It saw me through my university days in Australia. I would love to have my daughters learn this recipe and have it see them through milestones in their lives; and also get to connect with their great-grandfather in this small way even though they did not and will never have the opportunity to meet him.”
Serving: 2 persons
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 7 to 10 minutes (inclusive of the time taken to boil water)
- 6 tbsp Olive oil (regular, not extra-virgin)
- 6 cloves Garlic, sliced
- 2 sliced bird’s eye chilli or chilli padi, sliced (remove seeds for less heat)
- 3 tsp Kana Cai*
- 200g Dried spaghetti or linguine**
- 1 stalk Spring Onion, sliced
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
*These should be heaping teaspoons of preserved olive leaves
**Other types of long dried pasta can be substituted – for example, bucatini
- Salt the water until it’s as salty as seawater, then bring to a rolling boil
- Lower the flame a little, then cook the pasta for 1 minute less than instructions on the packet
- Meanwhile, on a low flame, heat oil in a pan and cook the garlic and chilli slices until light brown
- Add the kana cai, then the boiled pasta – along with a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water
- Allow everything to sizzle and cook for one more minute
- Season to taste with extra salt and black pepper, if needed
- Divide across two plates and garnish with sliced spring onions
- Serve immediately
Crabmeat Fish Roe Fried Rice by Edward Chong, Executive Sous Chef, PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay. He has two children aged 11, and 14
“Fried rice is the first dish a Chinese chef will learn in a professional Chinese kitchen. Chefs will spend years perfecting this dish and by teaching this to my son, I want him to know that anything is possible through hard work and tenacity. Hopefully my kids will teach their kids the same values which has brought me this far. My son first tasted this dish when he was seven, and started cooking it when he was 11. Initially he wasn’t keen, but now he knows how to cook fried rice and can even make a good broth for the family.”
- 80g Fresh Crab Meat
- 350g Steamed Fragrance Rice
- 2 Eggs (beaten)
- 50g Fish Roe
- 5g Salt
- 5g Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Sesame oil
- Heat the wok and add a little oil.
- Add in the fresh crab meat and fry until fragrant, set aside
- Add in eggs, give it a stir before adding in the rice. Fry until fragrant
- Add in salt and soy sauce give it a stir before adding the crab meat (no. 2) and stir
- Add in the fish roe and finally sesame oil, then stir well.
Braised Truffle Abalone Mee Sua in Superior Broth, Chicken Meatballs and Semi-Hardboiled Egg by Chef Darren Ong, Executive Chef of Royal Plaza on Scotts. He has two children aged six, and four
“Mee Sua Soup with Meatballs and Hard-boiled Egg is a traditional birthday dish that my mum made for me and my siblings without fail during our growing up years. Mee Sua is a symbol of longevity and wisdom for us, which represents my mum’s well wishes for us as we grew up. As I have my own kids now, my wife and I would like to keep this meaningful tradition and pass it down to the next generation.
My son, Caleb’s first experience in the kitchen happened when he was four years old, when he baked blueberry muffins with his mum. Subsequently, he learnt to make Hawaiian pizza and sushi when he was five. Caleb has just learnt the Mee Sua dish in 2019. Having a chef as his dad certainly has an influence on him as he approached me, expressing his interest to pick up culinary skills at a young age.
Caleb has been exposed to different kinds of cuisines since young, which makes him a foodie. When I pass on recipes to him, I usually think of ways to enhance the dish’s flavours and select ingredients to provide extra nutrients that are essential for my children’s development. The dish that Caleb learnt is a variation of the traditional mee sua dish that we used to have. It’s now Braised Truffle Abalone Mee Sua in Superior Broth with Chicken Meatballs and Semi-hardboiled Egg. The processes were also simplified as I had to ensure my child’s safety when he creates it. For example, I would prefer him to steam the egg than boil it. It’s easier for him to handle and the soft centre of the egg is tastier!”
Serving: 4 persons
Preparation time: 1 hour
- 3 bundles Mee Sua
- 1 packet Shimeiji Mushrooms
- 200g Chye Sim
- 1 can Abalone with Superior Broth
- 4 Eggs
- ½ tsp Truffle Oil
- ½ tbsp Soy Sauce
- A pinch Pepper Powder
- 500ml Water
- 300g Minced Chicken
- 100g Carrot Dices
- 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
- 20g Corn Flour
- A pinch of Pepper Powder
- ½ tsp Sesame Oil
Put minced chicken, carrot dices, soy sauce, corn flour, pepper powder and sesame oil in a mixing bowl.
Mix well and knead to form dough.
Roll them into small balls approximately 20gm each, and set aside.
Steam egg in a steamer for 13 minutes.
Soak in ice water for 2 minutes.
Peel and set aside.
Boil a pot of hot water.
Add in Mee Sua and blanch it for 2 minutes.
Strain and set aside in serving bowl.
Pour water into a pot. Strain superior broth from abalone can into the pot.
Bring it to boil and add in Shimeiji mushrooms.
Add in the meatballs and braise until fully cooked.
Season the soup with soy sauce and pepper powder.
Add in Chye Sim and Abalone prior to serving.
- Use a pair of chopsticks to roll the Mee Sua into a bundle and place it in the middle of a bowl.
- Arrange egg, meatballs, Chye Sim and Shimeiji Mushroom at the side of the Mee Sua.
- Pour in the broth until the Mee Sua is nicely covered.
- Top the Mee Sua with 3 pieces of abalone and add a dash of truffle oil.
- Serve hot. Bon Appétit!
- Boil the Mee Sua separately so the broth will not turn starchy and cloudy.
- Meatballs are cooked when they are floating in the broth.
- Choice of vegetables can be selected according to the preference of child.
- Vegetables such as celery, onions, or broccoli can be added into meatballs if your child does not like to eat chunky vegetables.
Simply Sandwich by Serene Goh, 48, director of Brango (Publishing Solutions). She has a daughter aged six
“I’ve always involved my daughter in the kitchen because in our house, there’s always someone cooking and baking. She can crack eggs, sprinkle on nuts, and knows how to work our Kenwood mixer. She even kneads bread and helps with cookies. But a sandwich I thought was necessary for her to learn, because it’s a lifeskill she can take anywhere (as I fantasise about it, college). The upshot: She can make a sandwich from start to finish, all by herself. She also knows what to get from the supermarket to make it happen.
She was five when I first taught this to her. I made a description of the parts of a sandwich and had some of her friends over to do it together with her. My mother jumped in to help – retired teachers are very helpful in these times. I got them to select items they’d be getting at the supermarket, then I took them on a learning journey to pick out and pay for these items before coming back, putting it all out on the table, and getting them to assemble it themselves. Then they ate what they made for lunch. They were all so empowered because they felt they’d accomplished everything by themselves from start to finish.
She’s done it herself since, especially when everyone’s busy and she’s hungry for a snack. Usually we stand at a respectful distance and eyeball from afar, getting her to work with blunt butter knives for spreading on things like cream cheese.”
- Wholemeal bread
- Slices of cheese or cream cheese
- Side of cherry tomatoes
- Choice of filling: Ham or mashed egg, chicken or roast beef slices, tuna if they like it
- Apply spread to one side of both slices of bread
- Add cheese and vegetables on one slice, then select a slice of meat to pile on top
- Place second slice of bread, buttered side down, on top of the meat
- Press down gently.
- Enjoy in good health!
Chinese Scallion Pancakes by Lisa Twang, 36, writer. She has a four-year-old daughter
“My mother-in-law taught me this dish because it’s one of my husband’s favourites. I’ve since tweaked the recipe to suit our personal tastes, and we often make this on weekends for breakfast or brunch. It’s crispy and comforting, and bursting with umami flavour, which is why we love it.
We cook this often because it’s an easy and foolproof recipe – even if you under-season it, you can always dip it in chilli sauce or soy sauce afterwards. And if you over-season it, just mix in extra water and flour. Easy! You can also leave out some seasonings if you don’t have them at home, and it won’t affect the taste much.
My daughter Tully first started helping me in the kitchen around age two. She would stand on the safety stool and stir the pancake batter under my supervision. I’d also let her sprinkle in the scallions. She’d go, ‘This is fun! I want to help you, Mama!’, and ask to add even more ingredients. At first, she didn’t hang around when I cooked the pancakes, because she found the stove area too hot. But now, she enjoys watching me flip the pancakes, and will cheer me on.
We’ve made this dish together at least six times. Now that Tully is four, she can help me with certain tasks, like scooping the dried shrimps out of the warm water. She watches MasterChef Junior and is inspired by all the other kids who cook. When we made the pancakes recently, she proudly announced, ‘I’m a Junior Masterchef too!’.”
- 2 cups plain flour (or ½ cup per serving)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 handful dried prawns
- 1 egg
- 4 stalks of scallions (chives will also work)
- 2 tbsps light soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- Pinch of salt
- Dash of pepper
- Cooking oil
- Soak the dried prawns in some boiling water for at least 15 minutes, to soften them. Chop them up once softened.
- Chop up the scallions into 1cm pieces.
- Pour flour into a mixing jug (this makes it easier to pour out the batter later). Stir in half a mug of water first, then continue adding a little water slowly while stirring. The consistency should be only slightly thick.
- Season pancake batter with dried prawns, salt, pepper, light sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and Worcestershire sauce. Taste to adjust seasoning, then add egg.
- Add cooking oil to frying pan on medium heat, and pour batter to cover the base when oil starts to shimmer. Rotate the pan around a few times, to spread the pancake thinner (a thick pancake won’t be crispy).
- When the edges turn golden brown, loosen the edges with a spatula, then flip the pancake over in one motion, flicking your wrist towards the 12 o’clock position with the pan away from you. This needs practice and confidence! You can also flip the pancake with the spatula if you prefer.
- When both sides are cooked, slide pancakes onto a plate. Serve with chilli sauce, soy sauce, mayonnaise or extra scallions.
Tell us, which dish would you teach your child first?