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Eat with your hands dinner party

Most people around here think of me as that nutty American anyway, so I figured I might take it a bit farther and plan an eat with your hands dinner party for some neighbors. Danes tend to be somewhat rigid about eating with utensils and I've witnessed not only burgers and pizza but also boiled shrimp and BBQ ribs being daintily cut with a knife and fork.

So, who would like to help me plan a totally (or close to) hands only meal? I'm thinking maybe an African theme or maybe Malaysian using banana leaves, but I'm not locked on anything.

Not sure if I'll go so far as to remove the table and chairs and have everyone sit on pillows on the floor, but would love to also hear some serving suggestions.

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  1. You can go several routes :)

    Indian - traditionally eaten with roti/chapati/naan and hands. Also other South Indian places.
    Mexican - would be better eaten with hands, imo
    North & middle African, Arabic - eaten with hands, sometimes communal (eat from same dish) - I like the idea of Moroccan or Ethiopian

    Or you can go medieval style with a Ritteressen.

    I'll help you plan if you pick your theme or decide to go all over the world ;)

    5 Replies
    1. re: haiku.

      Thanks so much for the offer for planning help, haiku. To me the planning, preparing, and cooking are the fun parts!

      I fix Mexican a lot, and have for these guests so would like to do something different. Very different! Love Indian food, but also the idea of Moroccan, Ethiopian, or African/Arabic. Will have to google some to see what kinds of dishes characterize each.

      I'm intrigued by the idea of a Ritteressen is definitely intriguing, as long as it wouldn't end up being something like the fare served at the Medieval festivals that pop up here from time to time.

      I'll come back when I have more ideas!

      1. re: Transplant_DK

        I've had Indian meals that not only were eaten by hand (the right one only), or with bits of Indian bread, but also all served on banana leaves. No dishes to clean up! And sooooo delicious.

        1. re: pine time

          "...(the right one only)..."

          I was watching an episode of a famous chef eating with a Moroccan family and was so interested in watching his left hand dangling over the table, when others kept it between themselves and the table, that I forgot to watch the food they were serving.

          1. re: Rella

            First trip to India, I literally had to sit on my left hand to remind myself not to use it to scarf down more food.

    2. There are so many directions you could go and honestly with a hearty bread (tortilla, naan, etc) you could turn any dish into a hands only meal.

      I'll try to stop back when you have more ideas and see if I can add anything fun.

      Sounds like a fun dinner.

      1. I unintentionally did an eat with your hands type dinner party last night. It started with Thai curried coconut mussels. Actually any mussels in broth recipe is by definition eat with your hands unless you physically remove the mussels from the shells and serve as a soup variation. Lots of dunking of bread into the broth, eating the mussels one at a time and plenty of broth slurping (mostly that involved spoons).

        Second course was David Chang's Pork Bo Ssam. I cooked the pork per instructions then shredded it and placed in a large bowl. On a table I placed platters of lettuce and mu shu type pancakes to use as the base for making stuffed packets. Followed by the pork, some shucked kumamoto oysters, some kim chi, the scallion ginger condiment, the ssam sauce and some cooked white rice. Sharks on a feeding frenzy is the most polite way to describe my guests. Lots of dirty hands but with big smiles on their faces. I was ultimately glad I offered the more familiar option of the oriental pancakes to wrap everything in (I bought them from a local Chinese restaurant and nuked under a damp towel just before service) because I knew some in my group just wouldn't take to eating this wrapped in lettuce.

        Since this wasn't planned as an eat with your hands event my dessert, while a resounding hit, doesn't fit with your theme as it used spoons. But I could see chocolate dipped fruit, grapes, strawberries or bananas as a fun conclusion.


        2 Replies
        1. re: KateBChi

          Damn, KateBChi! Why aren't you my best friend and close neighbor? I'd not only bring my own offerings if you wish, but come armed with wine, beer and SoJu.

          1. re: KateBChi

            Bo ssam is a very popular finger food in my home. You can find the article in the New York Times describing how to make it, or you can modify it and do it in a smoker (that's how we do it). But everyone is happy after a bo ssam meal.

          2. Southern Fried Chicken, sweet potato fries, biscuits and fresh fruit. All can be eaten with one's hands. Set the table without eating utensils except those needed for serving the victuals.

            8 Replies
            1. re: ChiliDude

              I'm with CD that as an American you should do an American themed dinner. In addition to his suggestions, carrot & celery sticks as veggies, served with Ranch Dressing or some other dip; apps of deviled eggs. Dessert should include watermelon slices and ice cream novelties, if available in Denmark.

              1. re: masha

                Barbecue a bunch of ribs and dare them to resist. Can you get fresh corn on the cob there at this time of year? I would LOVE to attend this party, it sounds like it will end up being a blast no matter what you serve. Gotta love shakin' up the neighbors...in a good way.

                1. re: tonifi

                  that was going to be my suggestion ~~ ribs, corn on the cob, wings or drumsticks, stuffed cherry tomatoes (think seafood salad), endive leaves w/ fruit & nuts, ice cream cones, and chocolate chip cookies.

                2. re: masha

                  +1 with Chili Dude and masha--love the deviled eggs idea and watermelon slices, could also be strawberries or any other kind of melon. And I say chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter cookies for dessert--I dare them to use a fork on them! Have fun, will be interested in how it turns out.

                  1. re: masha

                    i was thinking pie. it's not watermelon season in denmark for sure, lol.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Pie to me is not finger food. But I do like BerleyBabe's cookie suggestion. What about making over-sized choc chip cookies, and filling them in pairs with ice cream, for home-made ice cream sandwhiches?

                        1. re: masha

                          turnovers, mini-pies (made in a mini muffin tin), definitely finger food!

                  2. You don't need to limit yourself to one cuisine. There are plenty of finger foods worldwide that would allow you to express your culinary abilities, while limiting silverware:
                    spring rolls
                    deviled eggs
                    sausage rolls
                    chicken wings
                    Using toast points to create miniature smørrebrød would be an easy starter for Danes unused to utensil-free cuisine

                    1. I'd make utensils readily available for those who really would enjoy themselves/the food more that way.

                      1. anything on a stick also, like satay or kabobs.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          "anything on a stick..." --except a cake pop!

                          1. re: pine time

                            lol. they are not a "thing" in boston. they are strictly an internet phenomenon for me, and that is just fine if it stays that way..

                        2. I was invited to a dinner party like this once...and I really hated it. That particular hostess was adamant the meal be eaten according to her wishes. It just wasn't a pleasant evening. Please make utensils available for those who wish to use them.

                          1. Thanks for all of the input!

                            I have done the American food theme several times--fried chicken, deviled eggs, biscuits (plus lots of other southern dishes), as well as Super Bowl parties with wings, nachos, flautas, etc. and BBQ's with ribs. Some of the guests will invariably use utensils, and of course I don't make a big deal about it.

                            The idea here was to do the eating with hands as part of the theme, rather than dishes I would normally eat with my hands anyway. Hence the idea of something like Malaysian with banana leaves, although I'm uncertain if I can even find those here. Will have to search!

                            And watermelon is generally horrible here, even at the height of summer, unfortunately.

                            Still looking at options but will be back once I've figured out which direction to go. Thanks again!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Transplant_DK

                              I'm personally of the opinion that if you're going to push the limits of peoples' comfort zone (a la eating with hands), you might as well make it a horizon-broadening culinary experience too. I had lots of fun in Vietnam rolling my own meat, herbs and noodles into rice paper wrappers and dipping into a sauce. In Laos we ate laab by placing the meat and herbs into lettuce leaves, wrapping into little packages and eating. Ditto for Korean barbecue. Satays, yakitori and robata grill items all come on little skewers. Fusion tacos could be an interesting blend of east meets west. Most of the foods I encountered in India were to be eaten with hands. Couscous in Morocco and Tunisia was challenging, but definitely possible, with hands and breads. I adore Ethiopian, but you might have to beg a local Ethiopian restaurant to sell you the injera (bread). I just bought some berbere spice blend from the savory spice shop (online). It smells really good!

                              If I were in your shoes and looking for a big challenge, I'd choose something from each continent that is "hand food". Say, an empanada to represent south or central america, a taco to represent north america, bruschette, pizzette or mini calzones to represent europe, any of the asian options i suggested above to represent asia, tagine with couscous for africa, toss a few tail-on shrimps on the barby for oceania, then throw in samosas and bhaji (India), stuffed mussels (Turkish), oysters (Canada/USA) churros y dulce de leche (Spain), and you have all bases covered. I'd personally skip the Ethiopian because it deserves to be featured as a multi-dish spread.

                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                Sounds like it would be fun! I think this would work best with a bigger group than I'm expecting, but some good ideas in there!

                            2. How 'bout a New England crab boil dumped out on the table covered with butcher paper. Crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, corn on the cob, baby potatoes & sausage along with some crusty bread doesn't do well with knives & forks. They will be allowed to use mallets for cracking the crab.

                              Or Singapore Chili Crab is another dish that just needs to be eaten with your hands.

                              1. Reading through these posts and having spent my youth in a country where a piece of fruit (eg peach, orange, pear) was served on a plate with knife and fork---you PEEL it with the knife and fork before you eat it with same---I would suggest that if you are inviting people in a formal culture to sit on the floor and eat with their hands you give them some kind of fair warning so they can come dressed appropriately. In a formal culture an invitation to dinner usually means dressing up. A woman wearing high heels, stockings, and a silk dress would probably not want to have barbecue in her lap on the floor and grease up to her elbows, nor would a man in his best suit. Maybe you could invite guests to a midwinter picnic, sort of clue them in? I have known Europeans who had lived in the States for forty years and were still grossed out by hand-held corn on the cob.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Querencia

                                  I will tell the guests, but this is a pretty adventurous crowd, relatively speaking. As mentioned, we've had tacos, nachos, ribs, wings, etc together.

                                  The primary goal is something delicious and different, not to shake people out of their comfort zones. I believe they will think it is fun, or else I wouldn't do it!

                                2. I vote for Ethiopian too, not least because all those lentils and braises will hold well. If you really want to scandalize people, you could serve a giant whole fish. I think it's usually scored so you can pull off little squares, and grilled. It's delicious, and I find the experience to be delightfully primal.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: jvanderh

                                    Love the idea of a whole fish that gets pulled in pieces!

                                    1. re: Transplant_DK

                                      I think I've had it served like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffkole... (without the head and fins, so it isn't totally overwhelming)