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Chinese appetizers

My bookclub is meeting this Friday after work and I am in charge of appetizers. We are doing a Chinese theme as one of us is Chinese and getting married in May. Her wedding reception is a traditional Chinese banquet and we are going to taste test wines for the reception.

I have never been to a Chinese wedding, so I don't know what will be on the menu, but I do want to make something - as opposed to doing Chinese take-out. Living in Toronto, I have very easy access to Chinese ingredients. I do not want to deep fry anything.

I will be working all day on Friday, and will have about 30 minutes at home to prepare/finish preparing the appetizers. I can start preparing them on Thursday night, though. And I will be travelling across town (Toronto) just around the time rush hour ends, so that's about 45-60 minutes. I would prefer not to have to do more to the dish than a slight reheating once I get to her place.

Can someone recommend a dish? recipe? Thanks!

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  1. Crispy won tons with a sweet/sour dip
    Sliced BBQ pork with hot and mild mustard
    Satay (Chicken or Beef) with peanut sauce. Maybe not too Chinese, but would be a seller, I bet.
    Sweet/sour mini ribs (messy, but good)
    Minced chicken in lettuce packages
    Marinated chicken in foil packets

    1. There aren't really "appetizers" per se in Chinese cuisine.

      Are you looking for things akin to finger foods? If so, I'd recommend "taro and yam wonton". Chop up some taro and japanese yams, boil until soft, blend in food processor until consistency of mashed potatoes, scoop gum ball sized amounts into wonton skins, wrap and boil. Don't need to reheat, goes down well cold or at room temp.

      Might also consider pickled daikon -- julienne the daikon, marinade with a combo of rice wine vinegar, chopped garlic, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Let set in fridge for 24 hours. Serve on jicama "platters" (e.g. remove the skin on the jicama, and slice into place-holder like disks and place the julienned daikon on each disk).

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Thanks for those great suggestions, ipsedixit! What I'm looking for is something we can eat before the meal, so the taro and yam wonton would work fine. SHould I plan for a dipping sauce for the wontons? If so, what kind? (I really like Chinese food, but never cook it at home, so I'm pretty clueless about it)

        1. re: pâté chinois

          Try a brown sugar ginger soy sauce reduction for the wontons.

          Slice up some baby ginger (regular ginger would work as well), mix 2 parts water to 1 part brown sugar. Mix the water and brown sugar and add the ginger slices and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer for about 10 minutes. (Add a more water if the consistency is too thick) Let it cool to room temp. Remove ginger slices and swirl in some soy sauce to taste. Sorry I don't exact measuresments but I'm not one that believes in recipes.

          Good luck.

      2. Here are a couple recipes that might be good for your party...

        Beef Shank Braised with Five Spice and Soy Sauce

        Steamed Shrimp with Garlic

        1. Ooh. Can you do tea eggs? I don't have a recipe offhand, but if you do a search, you can make these in advance (today or tomorrow even)-- buy like 1 or 2 dozen eggs, boil them, then cook them in the seasonings/broth, and have them soaking till Friday, then all you have to do on Friday is peel, cut into slivers and serve! (Note, you have to crack the eggs, so they get that marbly texture when you soak them.

          1. My favourite is Peking Duck with Chinese Pancake and Hoisin Sauce and Green Onion Fans. It is so easy. Make a small size savoury crepe with chopped chives. These can be done the day before and put a piece of saran or waxed paper between each crepe before chilling. Then buy a peking duck from your favourite barbecue shop. Slice the duck into small pieces, have hoisin sauce for dipping or to drizzle on the duck and make fans with green onions (just slice the green end into shreds and place in ice water for them to separate). Lay out the shredded or sliced duck, hoisin sauce, crepes and onion fans. People can make their own. Or if you have time, you can roll them. Everybody loves Peking duck. I think the whole recipe is in Joy

            2 Replies
            1. re: sarah galvin

              Peking duck is great, but it really doesn't reheat well.

              Best eaten fresh, hot and warm ...esp. that crispy skin.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                It won't be perfect but is nice in the little crepes. I would buy it the same day though. These are appy's

            2. I would make a selection of mini chinese bakery items.

              i.e. mini custard tarts, mini steam buns, mini baked buns, curry puffs etc.. Most of them could be done beforehand, and would not require heating up.

              1 Reply
              1. re: gnomatic

                I second this idea. Bakery/pastry items are usually eaten as snacks in the Chinese culture, which is the closest you'll get to an "appetizer" since there's really no appetizer in Chinese dining, just like there's no such thing as "Chinese salad".

              2. Tea eggs, as anzu recommended, are really easy to do and look pretty. No matter what else you decide to do, they would be great to bring.

                Depending on how much work you want to put into it, I've made baked char su bau that are good at room temperature. Or, for something simple, make curry beef puff pastry pockets, brushed w/ egg yolk and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. You can make and bake those ahead, freeze and then reheat at your friend's house. There's also basic soups that are easy to reheat.

                1. I do not know if there is a Chiantown in Toronto, but I think so.

                  You could arrange with a Chinese BBQ deli to arrange a BBQ platter for you do pick up on the way.

                  BBQ Pork
                  Roast Whole Pig
                  Roast Duck
                  Soy Sauce Chicken
                  Salt and Pepper Shrimp/Chicken Wings/Squid.

                  In the past when the one who picks up the food for the card game has order this in the San Francisco and it has always been a hit.

                  Also if the items are freshly chopped and/or cooked within a few hours there is no need to reheat.

                  If you want just one item then select one item.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: yimster

                    Not only is there a Chinatown in Toronto, there are two in the downtown area alone. There are many more in the surrounding suburbs. Toronto has a huge chinese population, better quality then what could be found in SF Chinatown (totally retro, it's Cantonese food as found in the Hong Kong in the 1960's & 1970's, my dad's loves it when he visits because he is reliving the food of his youth).

                    I give my opinion as a Chinese (Hong Kong Cantonese) Canadian girl who grew up in Toronto, I do not pretend to be an expert in Chinese culture or cuisine.

                    Don't get anything pre-made from a Chinese deli or bakery. If you have to go with a Chinese food theme, making something yourself makes it much more special.

                    Chinese BBQ food is what Chinese families get when they are too tired to cook for dinner (it's the chinese version of picking up a pizza for dinner). While few Chinese families would make it at home, it's not considered special, and we buy it because BBQ places have the equipment to do it properly (and it's cheap). Also, roast ducks at BBQ shops, isn't Peking duck...it's just a roast duck. Peking duck is very specialized, the inflating and drying of the skin parts takes too long for it to be profitable for a regular BBQ joint (and even many places that claim it's Peking duck doesn't do it right) . Putting it on a wrapper with hoisin sauce doesn't make it Peking duck. We like it, we would eat it, but it still ain't Peking duck.

                    As an earlier poster mentioned, there is no Chinese appetizers. What many considered Chinese appetizers are food made for a north americans. Most of my 1st or 2nd generation Chinese friends don't like them, we would only eat them out of politeness when dining with non-chinese friends.

                    Chinese bakeries are everywhere because they are very popular..but for some strange reason, most chinese families I know don't make it at home (probably because Chinese bakeries are so cheap)...and the younger generation think it's very complicated to make (it's not, it's actually quite easy).

                    Tea eggs might be a good idea..but depending on which part of China your friend (or her family) is from it might have different meanings. I recall tea eggs being made for pregnant aunts and cousins...so maybe not the best idea for BEFORE the wedding.

                    In anycase, sounds like the original poster's friend is having a much nicer banquet then my family would considered traditional, no wine tasting to select alcohol for weddings require for us..the only requirement was OPEN BAR. :D

                  2. if someone already suggested than I do apologize, running out so just skimmed pretty quickly.
                    I've made shu mei - pork and shrimp and they reheat nicely.
                    my other favorite is oyster wings- I know you said nothing deep fried but these are a tad different, they are fried in oil without batter and drained, then tossed with oyster sauce and green onions and brocolli you could use snap peas.
                    Onion pancakes with hoisin sauce
                    Stuffed mushrooms with ginger garlic chicken and scallions and cilantro-dollop of chili paste
                    I love potstickers - make them all up and then throw quick in the microwave
                    of course char siu - bbq pork and its always a hit.
                    Shrimp in hot ginger sauce.
                    Have recipes.....