I've managed to volunteer myself to cook once a month up at a local center for socially disadvantaged people the first meal is going to be Chinese but what to cook. I'm the only one doing the cooking and I have 2 hours to do it in for 5-20 people. I have a hob, two ovens and various dishes but no machines and no microwave.
The people are in general very traditional and many will not have eaten anything like this before (my husband had never had chinese or any asian food before he met me)
I am thinking of fried rice as one dish since it can be reheated in the oven as there is only one large frying pan. maybe sweet and sour? any one have any good ideas?
Budget is of course limited and access to ingredients is as well.
Fried rice is cheap and tasty, as long as you know the secret... cook the rice the day before and let it cool completely in the refrigerator. But you're going to have trouble stir frying the rice in only one large frying pan.
Lo-mein might be another easy idea.You can use standard spaghetti noodles and the sauce is simple. Toasted sesame oil is something many find to be different than they've ever tasted before, but has universal appeal.
Can't go wrong with a simple meat and veg stir fry either. The key to a good american style Chinese sauce is the balance of sugar and vinegar in addition to soy sauce and proper cornstarch thickening. Be sure to rinse any canned vegetable well to get rid of the "canned taste."
The frying pan is huge it should be fine and I can get the rice cooked by the cook earlier in the day so it has time to cool down before I need it.
So far we have 10 booked in and 4 days left to sign up and my menu is;
egg fried rice
Crispy fried pork with orange sauce (I normally use beef and add chili but.. danes)
Chicken and peanuts in garlic sauce (this would normally be cashew nuts but price!)
Now I'm struggling with the prawn toasts, I really want there to be something small and nibbly like spring rolls but spring rolls will take to long to make. and would probably cost as much as buying the pastry will be very expensive. prawn toast fits the bill but it's eating a lot of the budget for a side dish. any ideas on other little dim sun that might be cheaper to make but not take to long? (chicken wings/ribs cost a fortune so they are out) At home I would do dumplings but I won't have access to a steamer or time to make them.
Personally I would go with steamed breads, they are easy, fast, and most everyone loves them. I made them for a barbecue recently for 20 people, I had a large steamer and was able to do 2 batches but I have a basket I put in my rice cooker or anything that makes pasta, can do 6-8 at a time. You could theoretically steam them in a plate set within a frying pan, if it has a lid.
This sort of thing takes substitutions really well- if you don't have szechuan pepper, use 5 spice, or white pepper, or ground sesame seeds. It's best with sesame oil and 5 spice, though.
https://www.chinasichuanfood.com/steamed-scallion-buns-hua-juan/ If you're not thrilled about MacGyvering with steam, there are also pan breads like this one (which I just made last night).
https://redhousespice.com/spring-onion-flatbread-leavened Also easy peasy-- just LET IT SIT before cutting (I always cut it too soon). Same substitutions apply as above.
If it were me, I'd be doing a chicken/egg soup too.
If you can find them, Chinese rice paper is very very cheap and makes good non-fried rolls. Here I think the price has gone up to about $2 for a pack of 40. Simply have three pans. Fill one with hot tap water. Dip the rice paper in the hot water for 5-10s (time will increase as water cools, if doing a whole pack you may need to refresh a few times) Set it aside on a plate/pan, add fillings, roll, set aside on a plate, do the next one. Try not to let them touch as they will gum together as they cool. These can easily be done an hour or two ahead if you choose non-browning fillings. I often do a mix of rice and veg (cabbage and carrots are my default) (fish is good too) and serve with peanut and fish and chili dipping sauce. Excluding chopping time, I think I spend less than 20 seconds per roll. The fish sauce should go over well with Danes.
A very simple and easy family favourite is a tomato and egg stir fry that works equally well with fresh or tinned tomatoes. If using the latter, I strained off the juices and cook it down first and thicken slightly with cornstarch before adding in the whole tomatoes. You could make it in advance and reheat to reduce your workload on the day and would combine well with Teresa’s steamed breads and your fried rice.
Another dish that can be cooked in advance is a braised tofu dish with any combination of mushrooms - ideally shiitake but if that’s too expensive, cultivated button, wood ear, oyster etc and Chinese cabbage. At home, we substitute iceberg lettuce or bak choy as a variation. There are lots of recipes online but the only important step is to make sure that you lightly poach the tofu pieces before cutting and lightly pan frying each piece until golden. The greens can be lightly blanched and added just before serving and used as a base for the braised tofu.
Hope that the meal goes well and look forward to seeing photos of what you decide to serve!
Well it went well, we ended up with 17 in total. the final menu was;
Chickens with garlic and peanuts (with peppers, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, carrot and onion)
Beef meatballs in a sweet chilli sauce
Egg fried rice
The menu is a little limited due to having 2 hours to cook in (no prep time) and a limited budget and limited tastes, (tofu would cost 4x as much as chicken and would end up in the bin) They were asked what they would like next time and they said Indian so Indian it is. We'll have to see if I can cook as that's only 2 weeks after I have a shoulder op.
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