How To Host A Healthy and Delicious Chinese Banquet

This image shows a table full of Chinese dimsum.

The traditional Chinese banquet is the perfect way to celebrate an important event or milestone with friends and family in Hong Kong. Whether it is the news of a job promotion, engagement or birthday; gathering everyone around a table and ordering dish after dish of sumptuous food is hard to match. Most restaurants will have a set menu for banquets with the foods that are available generally dependent on the event itself and time of year. With so much food to choose from, how can we ensure that our next banquet offers guests a choice of healthy options as well as those mouthwatering and popular dishes that are literally dripping in calories?

One of the biggest concerns when ordering food for a large number of people is striking the right balance - ordering too much food would be seen as a waste while ordering too little might leave guests still hungry. The waiting staff at the restaurant can offer expert advice in this regard, plus it's also good to have a general understanding of what main dishes your guests would like to eat and then balance those choices with healthier foods. Easier said than done. Moreover, it is important to know which dishes are healthy and which are not. The following advice can help ensure your next traditional Chinese banquet is a healthy one.


One of the great things about a Chinese banquet is how quickly the food is served, and this is especially evident with the starter dishes. Once the order has been made and drinks are being served, the first dishes will begin to arrive at the table. These are generally small in size and are served cold. Typical healthy dishes might be cucumber slices with sweet sauce, dried or smoked fish/seafood, cold noodles in spicy sauce, a BBQ meat platter featuring pork, chicken and duck, and some delicious dim sum. Most menus will have a cold food or starter selection to choose from, and it is important to understand that a small number of dishes are typically sufficient.

Main Courses

Most main course dishes will typically feature the staple foods of meat, fish, rice and noodles. Although a banquet would not be a banquet without these items, they should not dominate this part of the meal and can be balanced with several vegetable dishes. While some vegetable options are seasonal, there are others which are available throughout the year. Examples include leafy vegetables such as spinach or broccoli, mushrooms, beans and root vegetables.

When choosing meat and seafood, options that are low in sugar, salt, fats and cholesterol are advised. If unsure, one can ask the waiter for information on a certain dish, what ingredients are used and how it is cooked. Lean meats with the fat already removed are advised, while poultry should also have the skin removed. Meat or seafood that has been preserved, salted or smoked should be ordered and eaten in small portions.

Steamed or Stir-Fried?

An easy way to ensure your banquet is healthy is by reducing the number of dishes that are sauteed, deep fried or cooked with heavy condiments and sauces. Most meats and vegetables can be prepared in more than one way, and choosing the healthier option will still ensure a broad mix of foods and tastes. Aubergine, for example, can be stir fried with soy sauce (unhealthy) or cooked in a claypot (healthy). Staple vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower can also be steamed rather than sauteed. It is a similar situation with most fish options, and the healthy preference would be to choose a dish that is grilled or baked rather than fried.


Soup is another integral part of a banquet meal and there are a few options to choose from, such as light broths, chowders, thick soups and cream soups. Broths are the healthiest of all these options, particularly when used with vegetables, lean meats or seafood. Bones and fatty meats should be avoided if possible. Seafood chowder, although delicious, is high in calories and fats and is the least healthy option.

Rice and Noodles

As they are usually served after the main courses but before dessert, most people are quite full at this point and need only small portions of rice and noodles. Boiled or steamed plain rice is the healthiest option of all, although fried rice tends to be the most popular choice. Stir fried noodles with beef in soy sauce and chow mein are both popular main course options but they are also among the unhealthiest. If most guests have a preference for noodles over rice, soup noodles with vegetables, lean meat or seafood offer a healthier choice when compared to fried noodles.


After eating a healthy dinner, it is easy to reward oneself by ordering desserts that are full of sugar, additives, fats and calories. Desserts made with pastries, cream, ice-cream or those that have been deep fried are the biggest offenders when it comes to being unhealthy and high in calories. A simple mixed fruit platter offers a tasty and nutritious way to finish any banquet in style.

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