Thai/Vietnamese Ideas for Medium Groups

As I’m spending the remainder of 2020 in the Pacific Northwest, with access to markets and fresh Thai/Vietnamese ingredients way beyond what I find at home in Indiana, I’m devoting the period to those cuisines.

My extended family loves things I make, but my cooking style in those cuisines generally suits parties of no more than 4 persons (I’ll never try making pad thai for 7+ people at once, for example.) An additional problem is the unpredictability up to the last hour or so beforehand concerning how many people will be present, because people keep adding in. It’s an open house culture here, with multigenerational gatherings of 30+ people being routine at holidays and other occasions.

Foodwise, all this works fine for family Italian-American casseroles, bbq, chili parties, etc. But does anyone have ideas about good recipes for Thai/Vietnamese dinners, mainly prepared by one person with a little prep help maybe, and elastic enough to deal with a group that might start at 5 persons but then 6 hours later be 12 persons coming in 4 hours time?

Various individuals have all the popular food intolerances–no gluten here, no dairy there, vegetarian here, etc. So I just won’t worry about that at all for now.

I know there’s some sort of Korean or Thai/Vietnamese roast pork shoulder dishes out there. Never made one.

Any ideas are gratefully welcomed!

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Maybe some gai yang if you have access to a grill:

along with some sticky rice and green papaya salad perhaps.

I haven’t tried making green papaya salad but I’ve made gai yang a few times for a crowd. It’s pretty easy and keeps well. Most of the work is in grinding up everything in the marinade. I usually keep it simple and just do it with drumsticks rather than a whole chicken though.

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If you can stock your fridge well with fresh ingredients and a few sauces, and have some marinated meats ready, you could certainly pull that together for an expanding group,

The grilled chicken idea is great, and also lends itself to different marinades, or no marinade and sauces on the side (i play fast and loose with sauces - nuoc cham, scallion ginger, peanut, various chili and vinegar combinations, something herby with mint, and so on - that way a simple meat or tofu or veg that works for various intolerances / preferences can be dressed up.)

The same for low and slow pork or beef, or cuts that can be grilled and served room temperature.

Vietnamese restaurants do a lot of “bun” ie vermicelli topped with fresh veg, herbs, and a bit of protein - a DIY version of that makes for a nice buffet. Or same idea, with rice.

I’ve seen shredded papaya (for salad) available for purchase at vietnamese supermarkets along with the other components, including nov cham in a bottle. As well, spring rolls in bulk that can be tossed into the oven to reheat.

For thai, it’s easy enough to make a curry base in bulk and then use as much as you need for the group size. However the chalenge there is the additional fresh veg prep from 5 to 15. Focusing on easy proteins and carb sides, and supplementing with an easy to fix slaw or salad seems more flexible.

I’d stay away from things that need last minute cooking given your uncertainty of numbers. And take advantage of pre-prepped ingredients at the specialty markets - and apps too.

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I would do 3 big pots of different curries: different proteins, color/kind of curry for each. Easy to make one vegan as well. These are even better the next day and can stay on the stove top all day.
SPICY CHICKEN WINGS and/or Thai ribs
Cucumber salad
Papaya salad
Jasmine rice

If the curry goes uneaten (due to smaller crowd than expected) it freezes well.

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Very welcome ideas, so far, everyone!

Whatever else, I do think this is my time to start trying some papaya salad preparations, as it seems likely to be a good foil for most any of the richer, more proteiny things.

Papaya salad is best mixed shortly before eating; you could set up a diy station, or mix small batches as people come.

Another cold dish I love is larb - you can sauté the ground meat (or tofu) beforehand in bulk, and scale up or down with the fresh ingredients.

With curries, I wouldn’t prepare the actual curry until you know how many - it’s better imo to freeze paste / concentrate rather than freeze a fully loaded curry, where the vegetables / meats are never as good when they’re defrosted.

You can get bags of green papaya pre-shredded in most asian markets, but use it the same day.

ETA: Oops. I saw that Saregama mentioned this already in her post above. Apologies

Thanks to you and saragema, too, re: pre-shredded papaya. I did indeed get a bag at a good Viet/Thai store and happened to use it same day.

I was pretty satisfied with my starting venture. I’ve only had papaya salad once–at a local average Thai restaurant–and didn’t like it–seemed bland and sweet and soggy.

My own was none of those apart from a bit soggy, even though I added the "dressing elements at last minute.

I saw a trick on Hot Thai Kitchen where you soak the shreds in water w while, then dry them, to crisp them, as one does with lettuce. I passed, as I had the impression that they might already have been presoaked at the store before bagging. Will keep trying!

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