On a whim a few weeks ago I decided we needed to get more cultural around here.

So I decided to instigate one new dinner night each week where we would highlight a new foreign country and we would call it “International Night.”  I know, creative name, right?

I figured China would be a great way to start since we’ve been there…and we had a bunch of stuff we could use to bring China into our kitchen.

I had our old family movies going when we were walking along The Great Wall of China as we were getting things set up.

It was really not a big deal…I was making dinner anyway, and figured since there is one night a week that the cramming-in-of-family-dinner-amidst-the-jumble-of-extracurricular-things wasn’t quite as tight.

So I decided to make it count.

But the kids thought it was a big deal.  They had stars in their eyes about all that Chinese stuff.

And they were delighted that we pulled out the chop sticks.

 I made this super easy stir fry recipe my sister gave me.

Here’s the recipe:

ginger (fresh, grated…I LOVE ginger)
garlic (minced…to taste)
stir fry in a little oil
Add chicken and saute to cook through
add chopped red pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
red pepper flakes
Mix together and add to stir fry. Sauce will
thicken after a minute or two
Then add some dry roasted peanuts and

Serve over rice.

Easy, right?  (Thanks Amy and Sayds!)

Dave told us/ reminded us all about China and gave us some interesting facts and figures.

We spotted it on the map:

 We looked through some of the pictures we took in China (in that red book on the table below):
 It was short and sweet, because we had a full evening after that.

When we were done everyone scooted out to do their dinner jobs and rush off to mutual and gymnastics.

And that was that.

Until the next Tuesday when Claire told me she just could not wait to see what we were going to do for Wednesday night.  In the hustle and bustle of the after-school chaos I didn’t know what in the world she was talking about.  Then she reminded me:  It’s international night.

Yep, my plan was working.

So that week I went out to an International grocery store and braved it’s stinky-fish-odor to try to find the ingredients I would need for “Thai Night.”

I was anxious to put our new Thai cooking skills to work that we learned In Thailand (back here).

I found most of the stuff I needed.

…and got to work making “Panang Curry:”

(let’s pretend that plate is more colorful and I made a better presentation of the food, ok?)
…and this yummy sea bass:

Here’s the recipe for the sea bass:

…and just for kicks, here are the other two recipes Elle and I learned in Thailand…just for future reference, although I’m not sure they are even clear enough to be read.

I like how Elle wrote “Land of Smiles” on that one.
I’m going to have to dare to buy prawns for this one some day:
But I digress.
We sat around and had Max and Elle tell some stories about what they did and learned in Thailand.
I pulled up some pictures on my computer too.

I even found some authentic “Thai soda” at the International store:

(which was actually kinda gross…I’m glad I only bought two bottles)…I know Fanta is everywhere, but when we were in Thailand the kids said it tasted different, and then someone said it’s because they use “real” sugar outside the U.S.  Not sure if that’s true or not, but I figured maybe it’d be that same taste if I bought it at an International Store.  

We used our tablecloth from India but it had elephants on it so it was kinda Thai too…

Last night (International Night week #3) we had dinner from Japan.

My brother and friend went to Japan on their missions and make the best melt-in-your-mouth Japanese curry that we all love so much so I figured it was time to figure out how to make it myself.

We sat on the floor trying to be authentically Japanese to gobble it up.

(The kids were pretty excited about that.)

I’m very happy that Ariel could make it to Japanese night.

The recipe for the curry is easy-peasy: just buy this at the International section of the grocery store:

(my friend buys the orange one that is “mild” but my brother buys this one or the black label one to make it more spicy and adds milk and cheese since he saw them do that at a really good Japanese curry place.)
The directions are pretty straight-forward:

(They’re even written in Japanese if you prefer πŸ™‚

My family lived in Japan for a month when I graduated from high school.  I bored the kids to tears telling them all about how my parents had someone come show us how they do their ritualistic “tea ceremonis” and someone else came to teach us how to wear kimonos.  I told them how they have packs of perfect grapes lining the shelves in the grocery store for $40, and watermelons for $75.  I told them how we went on the bullet train and how all nine of us slept on these small little Japanese futons on the floor in a house we exchanged with someone.  We learned SO much that summer.

I almost tried to talk my brother into dressing up in his kimono and skyping us from Washington D.C. I had visions of him telling the kids all about Japan in a Japanese accent.   But I decided to take the easier option and show the kids these awesome videos he sent:

A gorgeous look at Tokyo and Yokohama – three minutes long


Awesome video of tokyo train

…and give the kids these facts he sent:

Fun Facts: Largest cities in the world. 
1. Tokyo, Japan – 32,450,000
2. SeΓ³ul, South Korea – 20,550,000
3. Mexico City, Mexico – 20,450,000
4. New York City, USA – 19,750,000
5. Mumbai, India – 19,200,000
6. Jakarta, Indonesia – 18,900,000
7. SΓ‘o Paulo, Brazil – 18,850,000
8. Delhi, India – 18,680,000
9. Γ•saka/Kobe, Japan – 17,350,000
10. Shanghai, China – 16,650,000

Pretty interesting stuff.

I think everyone’s favorite part was dessert.

My family ate a truck-load of these suckers when we were in Japan.

We had a couple contests to see who could eat them the slowest.

By the end of our little chunk of dinner-time the kids were a little loopy.

Everyone’s pretty excited to see what’s coming up next week…Italy?  Mexico?  Greece?  Hmmmm…we’ll see what we can come up with.

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  1. If you want to fly me in sometime I will present at international night about every country I have ever visited! πŸ™‚ This looks so fun Shawn and it makes me miss you all dearly! Nice un-posed self-timer shot, btw. Love you

  2. I love it Shawni. We have done that one year with our children. I love Japanese night cause I served my mission there. Curry is our ultime favorite and holds a dear place in our heart for our son that loved it so much.
    Pocky sticks are also a fav. What about Choco pies? did you eat those? what about that Calpis drink? I loved that.

  3. Shawni, if you need an authentic German recipe, let me know. πŸ™‚
    Nothing beats Sauerkraut and sausage or Gulasch. Pretty easy to make as well.

    Grüße aus Leipzig!

  4. My family does a themed dinner night every Thursday night too actually! It's not always "international" foods like yours, but it sure is always fun! And your decor is great for each of the nights as well!

  5. Very fun! My mom taught "cultural refinement" class or something like that for RS when I was little and she would do international nights for us as test runs for her recipes and ideas. That was always fun! I'm looking forward to hearing about the ROMANIA international night!

  6. I did this with my kids last summer, when for our summer learning fun, we learned about the world. So fun! We would spend a week or so learning about a country and top it off with our international dinner that involved someone knowledgable talking about that country. Looks fun and delicious!

  7. SO FUN! My husband and I have a similar idea when it comes to Christmas. We want to celebrate very Christmas with a theme from different countries. Being newlyweds and not having any kiddos yet (hopefully soon! IWAN), we will probably get much more into it when we have kids that are a little older. Anyway – looks like a TON of fun! I love your blog pizazz for life! – I'm storing away a lot of your ideas for my family :).


  8. Love this stuff. Just pinned this on several of our Power of Moms Pinterest boards and would love to do a repost of this on Power of Moms when we get a chance. Sound good? So proud to be your sister.

  9. This is fantastic. My kids aren't old enough to appreciate this kind of thing yet, but I am definitely filing this one away for later. Would you mind posting the Japanese curry recipe?

  10. I was thinking the same thing about fish, chips & mushy peas:). For pudding you could have Eton Mess or sticky toffee pudding & custard. Yummy:).

    This is also a brilliant idea for family nite.

  11. Awww! Love it! We used to do a weekly theme night – a themed dinner either by country or time period. We have been so busy, we have lost the habit. You have inspired me to start again! Thanks!

  12. What a great idea! But just so you know, they sell fanta all over the states and canada- i think it is made in europe. I happen to love it! tastes good flat too πŸ™‚

  13. Thank you for putting the recipes on here too. I too would like the Japananese curry recipe also. I've had a curry like that one before and have yet to find the right recipe.

  14. I just added a picture of the box of seasoning cubes you use to make the Japanese curry since so many people asked for the recipe. Yeah, it's super gourmet πŸ™‚ I also added a little note about the Fanta to clarify.

    We will definitely have to do an "English Night" soon. I wonder if I could figure out how to make Yorkshire Pudding??

  15. What about some real authentic Chinese food like pig ears, duck feet/neck, and stinky tofu? That would have made for a much more interesting night. Don't you think? Just saying.

  16. This is truly amazing! And i thought you were a picky eater! NOT! Well, if it was roasted squid you may not go for that but you are doing WELL with food in that house! So fun! Congrats!

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