Need advice for Chinese New Year party food
We are considering hosting a Chinese New Year open house-style party at our home this year, and I'm starting to think about the menu. The focus, besides Chinese, is food that can be prepared ahead of time as much as possible and still taste good. For instance, while I love pan fried dumplings, I don't want to be stuck behind the stove all day making new batches.
I definitely want to offer a couple of soups (probably egg drop or a hot/sour, and a wonton), but does anyone else have suggestions? TIA.
In addition to your 'make ahead' goals, it would be helpful to know how traditional you want your menu to be?
Alas, not terribly traditional this time, unless it also happens to be very easy to prepare. I do have access to some solid Asian markets here in the Boston area, so I can get ingredients. We will probably be serving lots of children in the preschool age range, which also should be kept in mind.
I always have dumplings (jiao zi) and mein for New Year. You can buy the dumplings from most Asian groceries or from some shops - Wang's in Somerville is supposed to have excellent choices. Instead of pan-frying them, boil them and serve them on platters. That's how they've always been served at the NY parties I've been to. You will need warming trays or something similar to keep them warm. Or boil batches every hour? It only takes minutes if your pot of water is hot.
I like to make big platters of lo mein as well. You can buy the noodles pre-made and cooked. Have the vegetables, meat etc. ready to cook. Before your guests arrive, get it into the wok, toss with noodles and sauce and put the platter into a warm oven. It will keep for at least an hour.
I usually buy roast meats to serve - duck, crispy skin pork, bbq pork. They're amazingly low in cost considering how good they are and most people really love the flavor. All these can be served at room temperature so there's no work for you.
I also do vegetables. I don't know any way around last minute cooking of most Chinese greens, so perhaps you can stir-fry and put out on warming trays? You could get pickled vegetables and arrange these on big plates with the roast meats.
Soup is a good idea. You can put this into a slow cooker to keep warm and guests can help themselves as they arrive. If you have more than one slow cooker, consider doing jook. It's easy and great comfort food.
Rice cakes filled with bean paste are a good choice for dessert. They are traditionally steamed, but I understand that many first and second generation Chinese-Americans are going over to baking. I made some last year as a fun project with my then 3-year-old. We'll be doing it again this year.
For a great make ahead dish,, as part of a large multi course dinner, I always make Lion's Head. Chinese Sugar Bake Hunan Lamb is another long cooking fsvorite you can make in advance and reheat.
Chinese banquests traditionally have many cold dishes. Szechuan Hacked Chicken is delicious.
For dessert, I often make the Eight Precious Pudding, made with glutenous rice. Also Almond custard (like Jello) with a fresh fruit platter is a traditional Chinese American dessert.