Asian influence is everywhere you look.
Feng Shui is hot, ikebana and orchids are all the rage, and the food — who doesn’t have a favorite Asian restaurant nearby?
Party planner Josephine Reyes Atluri, herself from the Philippines, put together an afternoon cocktail party with a touch of the exotic. She explains that the cuisine is already popular and many dishes lend themselves to being passed as hot appetizers or being served at stationary tables as finger food. Goodbye cheese and crackers, hello sashimi and Thai shrimp.
Using an Asian-inspired color theme of red, orange and lime green, she wove the food presentation together with decorations, linens and flowers. All options for standard party elements were carefully reconsidered and given a nudge to the East wherever possible. Here’s what she did. >>>
1Start with Asian invitations. Atluri used her home printer with Asian paper found online and added a twig with a dot of glue to the message.
2 Instead of a wreath on the door, she welcomes guests with a special door arrangement. Teresa Lauterbach of Blooming Acorn took a bamboo rod and attached flowers and streaming ribbons that flowed in the wind. Bamboo wind chimes at the entry are another idea.
3 Add aroma by burning exotic incense in containers before guests arrive and before the food is served.
4 Add Asian décor elements — easy to find at Target, Home Goods or online party stores. Atluri used paper parasols, Chinese lanterns strung up with fishing line (add lights inside if the party is in the evening), Asian-style frames for displaying the menu or messages, and played Asian music in the background.
5 All Asian cuisines are appropriate, so look to Japan for sushi, sashimi or soba noodle dishes. Thai flavors of coconut and cilantro can be used in many hors d’oeuvres, including Thai shrimp served on a bamboo skewer (recipe on page 36). If you work with a caterer, they may be able to offer suggestions not on their standard menus.
6 Serve food items Asian style. Chicken or shrimp is skewered with bamboo; Philippino noodles are served in tiny takeout boxes complete with chopsticks. Use bamboo trays or serving dishes, or Chinese soupspoons for individual servings of sashimi or a rice dish.
7 If you would like to add favors, custom made fortune cookies found online can be dipped in ginger-flavored chocolate, or candied ginger dipped in chocolate would make a great surprise inside a takeout box. Add nice chopsticks or small Asian figurines, if desired.
8 Flowers with an Asian look add a nice touch and a delicate fragrance. Think orchids or Asiatic lilies, arranged ikebana style or in a clear container with small stones in the bottom. Add a few lucky bamboo stalks, palm fronds or tropical plants (hibiscus, palms, rubber plants, etc.) to the display.
9 Desserts may not be big in Asia, but we can take our favorites and add an Oriental twist. The Black Forest Café in Amherst made sugar cookies shaped like elephants, and the frosting added a regal touch to their dress. Fortune cookies can be ordered in chocolate and raspberry and other flavors. If you would like a chocolate fountain, spike the chocolate with sweet curry powder, coconut milk or crystallized ginger powder. Cupcakes aren’t really Asian, but Atluri likes them, so she had them frosted with theme colors of red, orange and lime green. Arranged on a towering pedestal they created a focal point on the dessert table.
10 Instead of a full bar, offer a short drink menu of saketinis, lyche martinis, mango-passion fruit punch with ginger ale and a splash of vodka or rum. For the latest drink craze, offer boba (bubble) teas — tea, milk and any other flavoring with pearl tapioca at the bottom. The chewy surprise at the bottom adds a fun twist.
11 At the bar have fruit drinks poured and chilled and ready for guests when they arrive. Atluri put a small paper flag secured to a bamboo skewer with the wording for “welcome” in Asian languages (“Mabuhay” in Filipino).
12 If renting linens, look to add to your color theme and maybe add a bit of texture with organza fabric overlaying lamour table scarves.
13 If renting tables, consider the bar-height pedestal types. The round linens, layered and tied in the middle with a sash or chair tie, not only look Asian, but prevent the wind from blowing them around.
14 Consider adding a comfortable conversation area with indoor furniture placed on an Oriental rug. Atluri says that people are renting couches and chairs for this purpose. Teak Indonesian furniture would be perfect. Lanterns on end tables would be a finishing touch.
Easy ideas for more finishing touches: If the takeout boxes or other items are plain, add an Asian design with a stamp found at craft stores. Decorate the stationary food tables with bamboo mats or sprinkle a handful of sesame seeds over the table linens. Decorate the decking with swags of colorful fabric stapled to the wood —Atluri added a large orchid bloom to each gathering point. If using candles, put them in colored glass to offer a glow, even in the afternoon.
Shrimp Quenelle on Sugar Cane Spears
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup toasted or plain rice flour (or cornstarch)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 scallions, trimmed and minced
8 sugar cane sticks, 1/4-inch thick by 4 inches (optional)
In a food processor, add shrimp, flour and seasoning. Process until a coarse grain-like paste is formed.
Add to paste the scallions and form the shrimp quenelle around sugar cane spear, leaving 1/2 inch of sugar cane uncovered.
Bake at 400 degrees (or broil) about 10 minutes until done. These can also be deep fried, if you prefer.
Serve with sweet chili sauce available at Asian markets.
Celebrations Distinctive Catering Inc.
40 Pemberton Rd., Nashua
(603) 598-5177, www.CelebrationsMenu.com
You can buy a mix online, but it’s simple enough to make. Add fruit concentrates to this recipe, if desired.
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/3 cup Chinese black pearl tapioca (soak in water overnight)
1 cup brewed black tea (experiment with rooibus or herbal tea flavors)
2 tablespoons milk
4 teaspoons white sugar
1 cup ice cubes
Bring two cups water to a boil. Stir in one teaspoon sugar. Add pearl tapioca. Cook for about 30 minutes, let cool. Rinse, drain and refrigerate until chilled. Pour tea, milk and four teaspoons sugar into a cocktail shaker. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is well mixed in. Add the ice cubes and shake so the whole drink can get cold. Pour into a glass and add tapioca. Serve with a thick straw.
1. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar until it dissolves. Toss in the pearl tapioca. Cook for about 20 minutes. Rinse, drain, and refrigerate until chilled.
2. Pour tea, milk, and 4 teaspoons sugar into a cocktail shaker. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is well mixed in. Add the ice cubes, and shake so the whole drink can get cold. Pour into a glass, and add tapioca.
Notes: Place the pearls in a large parfait glass. Combine all remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously until the mixture is frothy. Pour into the glass, and serve with extra-thick straws.
Esenjay Events Inc., Amherst
Black Forest Café, Amherst
Party Favors, Brookline, Mass.
Fancy Fortune Cookies
La Fleur Chocolates, Chicago, Ill.
Bubble (boba) tea
Boba Tea Direct
Celebrations Distinctive Catering, Nashua (603) 598-5177
Blooming Acorn, Bedford
Cassandra’s Salon & Spa, Nashua
Taina Cruzado Cote, Manchester
Rentals - Equipment
Special Events of NE, Auburn
Rentals - Linen
Table Fashions, Canton, Mass.
This article appears in the March 2006 issue of New Hampshire Magazine