Asian finger food recipes for someone with no Asian cooking experience
July 10, 2012 4:12 PM   Subscribe

What are some good Asian finger foods to serve at a world cultures-themed baby shower?

I am helping to plan a baby shower for a friend who requested that the theme of the shower be world cultures. I signed up to bring Asian food, because I figured it would be easy to buy frozen egg rolls or potstickers. (No one was generating ideas at the planning meeting, so I volunteered for that just so someone would and we could move on with our planning.)

This isn't the way I usually do things - usually I'm big on bringing homemade food to parties. My husband is even more this way (as he's the cook in our home), and he will be attending the shower as well. So before I defer to laziness and buy premade food, does anyone have any good recipes for Asian or Asian-fusion finger food that would not be too difficult or time consuming to make for someone inexperienced with Asian cuisine?

Other considerations:
- Ideally, we'd like the food to be something the mother-to-be can eat. So even though a sushi platter is slightly more appealing to me than heating up frozen egg rolls, we're keeping sushi off the table.
- Asian food includes anything that is representative of a country in Asia (so Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Cambodian, etc. ideas are all welcome).
- Must be a finger food or pretty close to it--small portions being key. We want people to be able to easily pick it up from a tray and pile it onto a small plate with other foods that represent other continents.
posted by Terriniski to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
potstickers or eggrolls, as mentioned
Hum bao
sesame balls
fish cakes

more might occur to me in a minute.
posted by KathrynT at 4:15 PM on July 10, 2012

Chicken satay skewers?
posted by fancyoats at 4:18 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chicken satay on little skewers.
posted by cabingirl at 4:18 PM on July 10, 2012

Best answer: Veggie sushi? There's a wide world of delicious non-raw-fish-containing sushi.
posted by brainmouse at 4:20 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm pregnant and just today immensely enjoyed devouring Thai shrimp salad rolls. They're pretty easy to make, and although I don't have a recipe for you, google will give you lots, I'm sure.
posted by Specklet at 4:21 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shu Mai or similar dumplings are stupid easy to make, especially if you're ok getting frozen dumpling skins. Go to your local Asian supermarket and there should be several kinds.

My cookbooks are all packed right now, but off the top of my head a basic shu mai is made with shrimp, ground pork, scallions, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and a little corn starch. Depending on how many you want to make, try about a pound of shrimp and half a pound of ground pork.

Chop up the shrimp into small pieces, slice scallions into discs, and then mix all the ingredients (except the skins) in a bowl. It should be wet enough to feel quite moist but still hold together.

To make the dumpling, first hold your index finger and thumb together like you're making an OK hand sign. Place a skin over that, put roughly a walnut-sized amount of filling in the center, and then slide the skin through the opening between your fingers to close up the dumpling. The top should be uncovered, and if you want to be fancy you can place a single pea in the middle there. Steam for about 10 minutes to cook.

Sometimes it helps to brush a small amount of water around the edges of the skin so that it will stick to itself.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:21 PM on July 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

veggie tempura
posted by kanemano at 4:24 PM on July 10, 2012

Also, I do actually have a dynamite recipe for samosas, and although they're a bit fiddly and time consuming to make, you don't have to know anything about Asian food to make them. I'm at work now, but let me know if you'd like the recipe and I'll dig it out when I get home.
posted by Specklet at 4:26 PM on July 10, 2012

Of the Korean dishes mentioned in this maangchi discussion, I'd go with the vegetable pancake, green onion pancake, or sweet and crispy chicken wings. What you'd do with the pancakes is make fairly large ones, then cut them up to be finger food size.

My mom would also have bulgogi in skewers as a buffet food, and sometimes japchae, but I've never found japchae to be convenient to put on a small plate or eat while standing up and talking with other people.
posted by needled at 4:27 PM on July 10, 2012

Lumpia! The hard part is separating the wrappers. Long, skinny meat filled fried treats. Banh Mi made like the old fashioned 8 foot subs. Fresh herbs, pickled veggies and roasted chicken or pork.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:29 PM on July 10, 2012

Best answer: Sushi is easy (and delicious) to do without raw fish. I asked a question about vegan sushi a while back and received some really great answers.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:31 PM on July 10, 2012

Oh, I forgot to mention! You can make shu mai and freeze it way in advance. Don't cook them first, just lay them on a sheet pan in the freezer, then when they're hard you can toss them in a freezer bag. Throw them right in to the steamer from the freezer, no problem.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:35 PM on July 10, 2012

Scallion pancakes can be cut into finger-food size, and they're vegetarian-friendly! And delicious!
posted by xingcat at 4:52 PM on July 10, 2012

I can't find the exact recipe, but I used to make some yummy Indian potato cutlets in mini size for parties. Here is a recipe:

I made them tiny and topped with a yougurt or sour cream dollop and some tamarind chutney on top
posted by momochan at 5:00 PM on July 10, 2012

Vietnamese Rice paper rolls! They are the best- tasty, attractive and healthy. You can pretty much put whatever you want in them. Traditionally I believe it's mint, bean sprouts, tofu-

Can be served with a sweet chili sauce or plum sauce or peanut sauce

You can make them slender and slice diagonally for bite size portions.

Here's a tutorial I found. . .I do em veggie, but to each her own!
posted by abirdinthehand at 5:08 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Spam musubi? It's pretty popular in Hawaii.
posted by spunweb at 5:33 PM on July 10, 2012

To further backseatpilot's suggestion: you can buy wonton skins at any grocery store, and make the filling in the food processor. I've has good luck with shrimp, ginger, cabbage etc.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:06 PM on July 10, 2012

Mini Bánh mì!

Many fillings are possible. The pickled carrot daikon can be made ahead of time. The bread could be cut into rounds or construct while sandwiches, place toothpicks through it every 2 inches and then slice into segments.
posted by cat_link at 7:13 PM on July 10, 2012

Perhaps deep fried shrimp toast?

I see a lot of mushed up shrimp in that GIS, shame - i use whole prawns (preferably tiger prawns for the texture and flavour. Frozen uncooked is just dandy).

Slice up some white sliced sandwich bread (crust removed; lighter, cheaper bread lends a better mouthfeel than fancy "good" heavy bread. I've also used sliced baguettes, but they're a little too heavy even with the crust grated off, but they look great); one cut to divide, two more equal perpendicular cuts to get 6 rectangles. This is usually a *little* too small, but better than too much bread, depending on the size of your prawns.

Peel (leave the last segment and the tail on), slice (a tiny bit more than) halfway through along the ventral (belly) side up to the tail. (at this stage, season with light soy, white pepper, maybe a little dark Chinese cooking wine.) Slice/stab a small hole ~ 1/2" aligned with the length of the prawn just before the left-on tail. Flip the tail backwards (like, "bend over backwards") through this hole so it ends up being 900/perpendicular to the plane of the butterflied body. This creates tension forces that keep the butterflied prawn body flat.

Carefully dredge in salted/white-peppered beaten egg. It should be pretty drippy. Press onto the bread rectangles, tail pointing up of course. Leave in fridge for 30-60 minutes for the egg to "set" and dehydrate a little. This will bond the prawn to the bread.

Deep fat fry (when moving the uncooked shrimp toast, grasp by the bread portion to place into hot oil) at about 350oF until golden (you don't even need to fully fry; just enough oil to cover the top of the shrimp toast is sufficient). This is pretty quick, a few minutes at the most. Space well. Drain on paper towel on top of a wire rack. Can be reheated in a pre-heated oven set to broil/400oF-ish in a minute or two. Served at ambient temperature is ok, too, as long as it isn't cold out. The flavours come out better warmed.

The tail is a great handle to pick up with fingers; it's not greasy. At every potluck that I've brought it to, kids have gone completely and utterly bonkers over them. Most adults, too. I've also sprinkled them with panko prior to the refrigeration and it adds a little bit of a "professional" look but I personally prefer without. With or without, done well, these suckers look gorgeous.


As for mini satay skewers; you can get two-pronged toothpicks (or just use two thicker toothpicks) instead of a skewer that goes along the entire length of chicken.

I've had great results using chicken tenders with pronged/two- toothpicks that go in about 1-2" leaving another 3-4" unsupported; once cooked, the meat is structurally strong enough not to be floppy and makes eating it easier.

For seasoning I like adding and equal amount of sa cha (or Korean barbeque sauce that's primarily brillfish, dried shrimp, and oil) to the pre-made satay paste that comes in jars. And sesame oil. And extra pressed garlic.

Finish with lime salt. Peanut sauce is ok, too, but I'm a huge sucker for the lime salt, especially in hot weather. I've also experimented with adding 1/4 volume granulated sugar to the salt, but it was a bit too much. Maybe 1/8th or 1/16th volume might work better. Just realized; fine turbinado sugar would be really awesome. While this already results in a massive flavour bomb, I'm wondering whether a little sodium acetate (salt'n'vinegar seasoning; or the dehydrated result of mixing equimolar amounts of vinegar and sodium bicarbonate/baking soda) could really kick this into overdrive.

Again, kids always ask for seconds.


For spring rolls, you can substitute bean curd sheets instead of spring roll wrappers (which are much better than wonton wrappers, when fried).

Haven't actually had kids comment, but lots of foody adults have praised the bean curd sheets over the traditional wrappers. They're thinner and lighter and gluten-free. They crisp up really really nicely and result in a super delicate spring roll.


All three of these are pretty Cantonese (Hong Kong).
posted by porpoise at 7:34 PM on July 10, 2012

Onigiri aka omusubi aka rice balls! At its most basic, it's rice and salt, which is kind of boring, but you can add almost anything you want to make them more interesting and even make them into cute shapes if you're feeling extra-motivated. The kind of rice is sort of important, because if it isn't short grain/Japanese rice, it likely won't be sticky enough to hold together, but that's about the only thing you absolutely need. This is just about the most typical/easy to make Japanese food imaginable. Here's one recipe with various suggestions for how to jazz them up a bit, or if you've got an Asian grocery nearby, you can get even lazier and pick up some onigiri mixes or furikake to add to the rice.
posted by Diagonalize at 8:13 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you make roti canai I'll come to the fucking thing.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:54 PM on July 10, 2012

Such yummy and creative answers here I hesitate to bring this up, but in a pinch, purchased California rolls - the most approachable sushi - contain no raw fish and are fine for pregnant ladies to eat. You don't need to go vegan with the sushi for it to be safe.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:26 PM on July 10, 2012

So yummy. Never tried this recipe but site is generally flawless, so I'd give it a go. Doesn't look too hard.

In Japan they serve it everywhere, from festivals to conbini, and it's generally served either on a long stick or in a bucket with a little stick or something to pick it up. For your fingerfood context, you could maybe put it on a plat with little toothpicks in each piece or something?
posted by kitsuloukos at 12:06 AM on July 11, 2012

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