I wrote some time before about childrens meals in family restaurants. They have not changed in the interim: It is hard to find one without fried shrimp. A kaiten-zushi is likely to be more healthy.
With a small child that has just started eating, you want to be careful not to give them fresh food. There are some types of sushi you could try, but it is better to stay away from it entirely until they are a bit bigger. Toddlers love the sushi rice, as it is sweetened by the vinegar used in the preparation, but there are only some types of sushi they should eat. Better stay away from it.
Another reason to stay away from sushi is the wasabi. This is a type of spice you may have come across if you are a frequent visitor to Japanese restaurants. The green paste with the mustard-like fierceness is made from a type of root which only grows in free-flowing water, and the fresh wasabi tastes very differently from the preserved versions (often mixed with horseradish), since the essential oils that bring the most sought-after taste quickly disappear, leaving only the fierceness. It can bring tears to they eyes of an adult, but that is nothing what it will do to your child if they eat it. Several hours of crying is the most likely outcome.
Why To Avoid Natto
Wasabi is usually served with sushi, although mixing a little in the soy sauce used to dip grilled meats enhances the taste – for adults. So it is easy to avoid. So is other foods which you do not want to feed to your infant. But unless you actually select them yourself, they are easy to avoid.
One such food is natto, the fermented beans which Japanese eat with rice. Most foreigners balk at the slimy consistency and the scent, although if they could get it without those, they would appreciate the nutty flavor. The same mold as is used in the natto fermentation is used with rice to make shiokoji, white stuff that is smeared on fish and meat to tenderize it. It gives the food a salt-sweet flavor that goes down with a little older kids.
What To Avoid In Your Bento
Most Japanese eat a bento at least once a week. This is the lunch box which is sold en masse in convenience stores. Most restaurants also have them, and there are specialized companies who sell them. But while there are companies who specialize in selling bento for small children, you have to live in Japan to find out about them.
A normal bento consists of a piece of fried fish, some small vegetables and tofu, and rice. Often with a piece of nori on top. If you get a nori bento, check two things: That the nori is not so tough your child can not chew it, and that there is nothing on top. One popular type of bento has tarako, cod roe, on top. Often spicy. You want to avoid that.
Also be careful with the fried fish. While the fish itself is excellent food for your children, the fish may have bones which can stick in their throat and hurt them - even puncture the throat of a small child. You do not want that.
Also check the pickled vegetables. If there are pickled stems, they may be wasabi and that is spicy by nature. And of course avoid anything which may be raw, like raw tuna and raw fish roe. The rules for that are really the same as when you give your child an onigiri.
Do Not Eat Korean
Japanese people love Korean food, as is witnessed by the many Korean restaurants in most Japanese cities. The restaurants are often run by ethnic Koreans, or their descendants, since Japan annexed Korea and imported labor en masse during the 30's. They have both Japanese and Korean passports, and would serve as a bridge between the countries. Mostly, however, they run restaurants which are very successful, since they serve spicy food - something not common in the Japanese kitchen. And on the palate of a child just beginning to eat, or even experienced traveling toddlers.
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I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning four and a half - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.