Whether you’re embracing your Chinese heritage or you just love good food, dim sum is the perfect option for dressing up your wedding catering. This traditional cuisine serves up mini-portions of mouth-watering dishes accompanied by bottomless pots of high-quality tea.
Presentation is Everything
Part of what makes dim sum style so appealing is its visual presentation. Serve mini-dumplings in the small bamboo steamers straight from the stovetop. Not only will you avoid damaging the dumplings by transferring them to a new plate, but the rush of steam as the server lifts the top will waft delectable smells towards your guests and increase anticipation of the delights to follow.
Keep in mind that colors and textures enhance the experience of a meal. Nestle crispy fried items into beds of purple and green cabbage. Crack a few quail eggs to top off bowls of Chinese porridge. Don’t forget the garnishes; carved vegetables can be as simple as cutting “petals” into a radish, or as ornate as carving a pastoral landscape into the side of a watermelon. If you don’t feel comfortable carving vegetable sculptures yourself, you can find a caterer who specializes in it.
Don’t forget to dip! Small bowls of duck sauce, chili oil, rice wine vinegar, spicy mustard, sesame oil, and soy sauce can be arranged on platters around the serving area to add extra visual appeal to your table setting.
Remember to provide a choice of chopsticks and American cutlery so every guest feels comfortable. If you’re serving dainty dim sum selections as an hors d’oeuvres course, you can also encourage guests to use their fingers.
Planning Your Dim Sum Menu
One of the reasons dim sum is so popular for parties is because, like tapas, it gives guests the opportunity to sample a little bit of everything. Keep your menu varied and your portions small, and your guests will be able to enjoy a wide range of flavors before filling up.
Dumplings: These bite-sized treats come in nearly every variation, making them the most flexible menu item on the table. They can be steamed or fried, filled with meat, seafood, or vegetables, and wrapped in wheat or rice flour. They can be pleated and served on their sides, or served standing up with their filling peeking out of the top. Leave no guest displeased and serve a wide variety including har gow, the famous translucent shrimp dumpling, and the ever-popular potsticker.
Buns: Like dumplings, buns can be filled with anything you like. Popular options include char siu bao with their savory, barbecued pork filling, while sweet buns like jin deui delight crowds with their sesame-encrusted outside and sweet bean paste filling. Sweet, creamy custards are also popular fillings for buns.
Rolls: Most guests have seen egg rolls and spring rolls at their local Chinese buffet, but rolls come in much more variety than “meat” and “vegetarian.” The exterior can be deep-fried and lumpy, or wrapped in crispy layers. Rolls can also be served Vietnamese-style with a clear, rice-based wrapper and filled with fresh basil and noodles.
Vegetables: Round out your selection of steamed and fried goodies with some healthy vegetable dishes. Traditional vegetables like bok choi, Chinese broccoli, Chinese eggplant, and snow pea shoots help clear the palate for more salty, savory dishes to follow.
Tea: Whether you serve strong black tea, flavorful green or white tea, or aromatic jasmine, pay special attention to the taste of your tea. It pays to invest in high-quality tea leaves and not just grab whatever your grocery store happens to be selling in bulk. You can even arrange a “tea tasting party” before the wedding where you order samples of a few varieties and see which emerges as the room’s favorite.
You may want to serve your dim sum in traditional “cart style,” where serving staff rolls small carts around to each table. Your guests can then view their options and choose which dishes they’d like to try. Serving carts can keep food warm (or cold) up until the moment of serving, and ensure that no guests are presented with items they have no interest in sampling.
Sticking with serving carts also cuts down significantly on food waste. If you’d prefer to forgo servers, consider a Lazy Susan approach instead. A rotating disk in the middle of each table can give all guests equal access to the feast.
Whether you have waiters passing dim sum delicacies around on platters, or you serve a sit-down meal, choose a dim sum menu and add festivity and fun to your wedding feast. Don’t forget the personalized fortune cookies!
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