Diptych of closeup of toddler's hands spooning noodles from a bowl and Chrissy Teigen
Credit: From Left to Right: Ngoc To Vy Nguyen/EyeEm/Getty Images; Jean Baptiste Lacroix / Stringer/Getty Images

My Toddler Refused to Eat Anything Even Mildly Spicy. Then I Made Chrissy Teigen’s Miso Noodles.

published Nov 11, 2020
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I spent the spring eyeing Chrissy Teigen’s spicy miso pasta, a combination of one of my favorite dishes (carbonara) with extra umami from miso and a hit of spice. Photo after photo popped up on Instagram, my Twitter feed seemed to taunt me with its popularity and its savory, carb-y heat. The internet seemed to be obsessed in general, but also a lab designing my favorite food could only have come closer by somehow working in a little ice cream at the end. That it came from one of my favorite food celebrities—whose recipes tend to work—only doubled the draw. But when I finally made it, spicy miso pasta turned out to be more than just a great dish, it represented a turning point in dinners in my house

All spring, Chrissy retweeted photos people posted of the dish, and I drooled. But while locked down, there were no meals without my children: the older one, who felt that Kraft macaroni and cheese was too spicy, would never eat it, and the younger, who imitated her every move, would never eat anything her sister wouldn’t. So suggesting spicy miso pasta for dinner would set me up for an evening of battle. Already tasked with three meals and two snacks a day for a family of four, I was in no mood to either fight or make a second meal just so I could try the dish. 

Then, this past week, an opportunity: a meal kit had come with enough sauce for the family, but only enough noodles for two people. I’d used noodles from the pantry instead and still ended up with leftovers, as well as the fresh pasta it had come with—just enough to turn into the spicy miso pasta for my husband and self the next day. As I roasted beets in the oven to go with our meal, I microwaved the leftovers for the girls and set to making the spicy miso pasta. The last-minute change worked because the recipe relies only on ingredients that we consider staples in our house: bacon, eggs, Parmesan, chili-garlic paste or sambal oelek, and the scallions that we’ve been regrowing for so long.

The dish was stupidly easy to make, even as the kids wove in and out underfoot—sure, I turned around for a second and they’d drawn all over their faces with marker, but that’s par for the course. It was easy enough that as I made it, I considered I might just be willing to make it alongside a second dish for my kids.

We served the girls their red-sauce noodles and ourselves the spicy pasta—it wasn’t fire levels, but had a nice heat that built as you ate it, calmed only a little by the creamy carbonara. The sauce hugged the noodles, thick and warm, marrying the carb to the eggy flavor. For a few brief seconds, silence graced the table and the beloved burn of spicy food, one that I’ve only been able to apply in hot sauce form to cooked food for many months, washed over me. 

Then it began: “That’s not fair!” screamed the 4-year-old, complaining that we could have our pick of more dishes than her. “Would you like some spicy noodles?” I asked, skeptically. For her whole life, “It’s spicy” has been the best way to keep her from eating any food. She looked horrified, although still upset. “That’s not fair!” repeated her echo, the 2-year-old. I offered her spicy noodles, too, but she accepted. This had happened once or twice before, I knew the drill: I checked that her milk was full—she would have a few bites then chug some milk and lose interest, returning to her non-spicy food. But this time it was different.

She ate the noodles I placed on her plate. 

And then she asked for more.

I looked at my husband in amazement. Was it really happening? Was there hope that we could all join together for dishes of Sichuan chicken and Pakistani nihari, the foods I had given up on sharing the joys of with my children for so many years? 

I tried not to get ahead of myself, but on this day, when the younger kid asked for seconds, and then thirds of spicy pasta, I imagined myself tossing a set of tiny thank you notes into the air like confetti, hoping one would reach Chrissy Teigen. 

The difference between half of the people in the house eating a dish and a majority of them might only be one small toddler, but it’s a big deal when it comes to meal planning. I won’t make separate meals, but if the big kid occasionally eats an entire meal of roasted beets (as she seemed to have last night), the rest of us can enjoy spicy noodles. Especially when it means setting the younger child down a path to Nashville hot chicken and berbere-laced kitfo in the future. But for now, I’m just happy knowing I can make Chrissy’s spicy miso pasta in the future without starting a dinner table battle.

“Can we have this again?” asked the little one. When I said yes, my daughter cheered. And so did I.