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A Chinese menu for entertaining, cookbook ideas?

  • w

Hello -

Thinking of having a pretty formal dinner for friends. It is not hard to think of some books to come up with formal Italian or Friench menus for a dinner party, but I must admit to being a little stumped for a more Asian theme.
My only resources at hand are some older Barbara ropp books and Martin Yan's Chinatown. What else am i missing? I know there is more out there. I'd like a great, sort of formal, multicourse dinner with courses my guests have not seen before. What can I do?


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  1. Maybe look at some Chinese restaurant banquet menus such as http://www.koipalace.com/party/bmenu.... and then try to find recipes in cookbooks. Sorry I can't recommend any particular cookbooks. Koi Palace is Cantonese so I would look for Cantonese recipes.

    Good luck!

    1. I don't know about cookbooks, but a search for "Chinese banquet" (or "Chinese banquiet menu") will probably help you immensely. And, considering the time of year, also search for "chinese new year food" for ideas. Once you have a menu, you can pick recipes from cookbooks you already have on hand.

      1. During March 2008 two cookbooks written by Fuschia Dunlop were the Cookbooks of the Month. The recipes were very well recieved by those of us who cooked along.
        The books were, "Land of Plenty" and "Revolutioinary Chinese Cooking." Dunlop is an internationally reknown authority on Sechuan and Hunanese cooking. Here is the master thread which gives links to various chapter reports and some of her recipes you'll find on line:

        2 Replies
        1. re: Gio

          2nding this. So far, just have Land of Plenty and her memoir; the recipes we've tried so far have been pretty successful, including for my girlfriend's folks (Chinese, though not Sichuanese), who we generally avoid making Chinese food for. The author makes some accommodations for western audiences (using ham instead of Chinese bacon, otherwise avoiding ingredients that might be too difficult to find in a lot of places, and maybe toning down the spice a notch or two), but overall, she sticks to what I imagine to be pretty authentic ingredients and methods. She also has some thoughts about the order for serving stuff.

          Of course, the recipes in these two books are mostly Sichuanese and Hunanese, but there are plenty of options that aren't super spicy, or dishes that are more generic.


          This may be obvious, but one thing to keep in mind is that for certain dishes, you *need* to have the right ingredients, so find a good Chinese / Asian market if possible, use care when substituting ingredients, picking out sauces or preserved foods, etc. Just doing that will get you a lot of the way. If you try using Tahini for Chinese sesame paste, apple cider vinegar for black vinegar, or whatever, you may get less than optimal results. Of course, if you don't make Chinese food a lot, this means you may end up with some unnecessary ingredients piling up in your cupboard.

          1. re: will47

            Gotcha. We have one pretty good Chinese market nearby, so correct vinegars, etc., should not be a problem. Good point and well received, though!!


        2. _Classic Chinese Cuisine_ by Nina Simonds is good and accessible - and she has a few sample menus to follow or riff off of . . . .


          1. These are some good ideas! Thanks everyone! I was thinking of maybe picking up Ken Hom's "Fragrant Harbor", Susanna Foo's "Fresh Inspiration", maybe "Occidental Tourist",and an Australian book or two (Bill Granger or Neil Perry).
            I like the idea of checking out some menus. I would never have come up with that.

            1. If you're not wed specifically to China, I have been enjoying Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A Culinary Tour through Southeast Asia.

              1. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's New Cantonese Cooking is a fine cookbook and includes suggested menus in the last section of the book. This book was published in 1988, so no doubt it's not too old to be at the top of many people's lists, but I like the book. Her latest book, mastering the art of chinese cooking, I believe it's called, may also include suggested menus.

                1. More Fusion than Classic Chinese but if you are adventurous I would highly recommend Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger cookbook for delicious and very creative Fusion cuisine. I used this book for a dinner for 6 that I had to prepare and everything came out great. One recipe in the book which is a killer is his Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass and you can easily substitute Black Cod for the Sea Bass.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bakerboyz

                    Okay, great. I have used his dumpling recipe numerous times with great success. Agreed - more fusion-ish than classic, but that is just fine. I am looking for style and technique than absolute authenticity.

                    1. re: Westy

                      I also made from this book a delicious Seared Scallop with a Carrot-Star Anise sauce (first course) and a great Corn Lemongrass Soup with lobster salad on a large flouting crouton on top of the soup (second course). Most of his recipes I find to be fairly intricate with expensive ingredients but they are also "over the top" in taste and presentation...not exactly beef with broccoli or shrimp with lobster sauce.