If you organise an event in Asia, there will be at least one factor that plays right into your hands—delicious food. If chosen right, the colors and diversity of Asian traditions will add some unforgettable flavor to your events. The rule is pretty simple: If you don’t know where your Asian event-planning journey should begin, start with creative catering ideas.
Catering traditions and food differences in Asia
Just like food and drink choices, the traditions of dining are also very diverse in the Asia-Pacific region, varying not only from country to country but also at the regional level. Before building your perfect menu for the event, we recommend immersing yourself in the food culture of the target region. Although it’s a fascinating topic, we won’t pack all the intricacies of Asian catering into this blog post. However, what we can do is tell you about some of the interesting traditions that will help you polish the culinary element of your next event:
- Hawker food culture of Singapore: When we talk about Singapore as an event destination, the words we usually hear in our minds are “business hub” and “finance”. Here’s the third important expression you should add to the list: “multicultural flavor explosion”. In Singapore, hawker centers are some of the most beloved spots, not only for tourists but for locals as well. Assimilating a huge range of unique multicultural cuisines, outdoor food courts at hawker centers define Singaporean dining culture.
- Eating sushi the right way: Yes, you’ve guessed right—Japan. If you want to stick to tradition in this country and serve sushi or rice bowls to your guests, you should pay far more attention to having the right cutlery than you may think. For instance, did you know that your guests will need dedicated sets of chopsticks for moving food in case they want to eat from shared dishes? Details like this could really make or break your event catering experience and the impression you make.
- Dining hierarchy: If China is your next event destination, the first thing you should learn about it is the old (but very much alive) hierarchical tradition it follows. “Okay, so what does that have to do with food?” you may be asking. The thing is, social status impacts the way Chinese people do business, establish partnerships, and, yes, eat. For instance, if you invite a special guest of honor to your event in China, you must ensure that he or she sits to the right of the host at the dining table.
Write a time plan
No matter how long your event is expected to last or what type of dining experience you choose—plated or buffet—a comprehensive time table will make your life much easier.
First of all, start by writing down the full list of food items that have to be arranged at the event; then specify the timeline for making these preparations. If other team members are taking charge of these preparations, indicate their names next to each task in the time plan. At the next stage, develop a detailed plan for serving food and drinks during the event, and indicate the timing for coffee breaks. If a banquet is planned, schedule it towards the end of the planned activities.
Particularly if you’re new to Asia’s dining traditions, clarify the mealtimes that may be unique to your region before building a time plan.
Create the right settings on the ground
Event food management isn’t only about food. It’s also about creating a strategic setting that allows enough space for your kitchen (if needed), food storage, and a dining area. Unless you are throwing a party in some grand palace, you’ll need to use space as economically as possible. Furthermore, what’s even more important is ensuring that both your guests and catering staff feel comfortable using this space. Here is a short action plan on how you can make venue space work for your catering success:
- Clear out all the stuff you don’t need. Only keep the necessary products and appliances in your kitchen area. If the food will be cooked on site, you should have enough dedicated work surface. If it’s too challenging to stock everything at the venue, think about storing some things somewhere nearby.
- Get more cutlery than you need. Having enough accessories, utensils, and appliances is the most important part of a smooth catering experience. You should always remember that glasses and plates can be broken, so bring some extra cutlery to overcome this inevitable challenge.
- Turn your creativity on. If you have no time to install a bar or buffet area, your venue space is too limited, or you simply want to jazz it up a little, you can always choose mobile catering ideas. From vintage food trailers to “travelling bars”, you’ll find lots of drivable options for spreading food and drinks across the venue. The huge perk of mobile catering vehicles is that you can brand them in a variety of ways, which strengthens your marketing efforts. Just place logos or any signage on a truck, and you don’t have to worry about branding anymore. For more inspiration, check out these 18 mobile food and drink options for event catering.
Take special care of food safety issues
You might not believe it, but “MSG will kill us all” is still what many people believe in the West. Monosodium glutamate, although widely used in China, has a terrible reputation in most Western countries. This and other common food contradictions could have a negative impact on the way your attendees experience the catering at your event. Check out the following food safety issues you should consider before planning the dining part of your event:
- Culinary prejudices: Ensure you marry the tastes of East and West at your next event.
- Allergies: There are numerous foods that can cause allergic reactions. Take that into account when planning for your catering in Asia.
- Use variety as a safe option: You should satisfy every visitor, so be sure to offer different types of snacks and foods at the event. The same situation is true for beverages. The more options for drinks, the better.
- Keep some healthy food choices on the menu: Healthy and safe food and drinks should be a cornerstone of any event—and geography doesn’t have anything to do with it. No matter where you go, avoid perishable products, and choose foods that will generally be considered harmless.
To understand the food preferences and concerns your guests might have, utilise pre-event surveys before planning for dining experiences.
If you’re developing a plan for catering an event in Asia, food diversities and traditions are what you should consider first and foremost. In these four simple steps, you can create a meaningful catering strategy that has some local touch but is also well aligned with the needs of your audience.