Top 9 Communal Dining Ideas
I was inspired to write this list after my colleagues told me that Boodle Fight was quite a good idea for dining as it was quite interactive at the same time brings everyone together in a dining table in a very personal manner, meaning more interaction with everyone. Some of the exact words uttered after their Boodle fight experience is that they felt like it was a Christmas dinner where everyone just enjoys the meal, talk to each other and basically enjoy the food together. Since then I tried to find ways to find similar dining experiences hence the next event that we had I booked a Japanese buffet restaurant that included a Shabu Shabu, a hot pot where everyone puts their raw ingredients and consume together.
Communal dining is nothing new, in fact this practice of dining that is centred on food and interaction with everyone you are dining with existed since the ancient Rome where it is practiced as a religious tradition. Communal dining can be simple, in fact just eating along in a restaurant with sharing platters with your friends is already considered a communal dining experience but we are not here for that, we want something more interactive than your usual tapas and sharing platter hence we will be presenting you with Top 9 Communal Dining Ideas which is unique and fun to experience.
Hot Pot, Sukiyaki, Shabu Shabu, Yao Hon, Thai Suki or Cù Lao whatever you call them this method of cooking originated in Chine where it involves a simmering pot of soup stock at the centre of a communal table where diners drops their raw ingredients into the pot and out as they please. Stock can vary from simple flavoured ones to spicy broth, some pots offer a divider to separate different soup stocks. Ingredients regardless of where this hot pot is consumed typically consists of different meats, assorted vegetables, root crops, noodles and tofu as a base, but the list can go on and it all depends on the region the hot pot is being served.
If the East have hot pots, then the Westerners have fondue and it can be classified into six different things. Yes! Fondue is not just cheese or chocolates there are other different types of fondue out there. While the most popular is the au fromage or what we know as the cheese fondue there are other types of enjoying this communal dining. Basically, this method is where a fondue pot is filled with a dipping sauce that is melted by a candle or spirit lamp and ingredients are dipped using long-stemmed forks to coat it with the hot sauce.
First type is Cheese where different blend of cheeses, wine and seasoning is melted, when it is ready, cubes of bread, cooked potatoes or even sausages are speared on a fondue fork into the mixture.
Second popular one is Chocolate where slices of fruit and/or pastry are dipped in a caquelon of melted chocolate.
Third one is Oil Fondue or what the French calls bourguignonne, where a fondue pot is filled with hot oil and diners dip pieces of meat to cook them, once ready it is dipped in different sauces provided on the side.
Fourth is Wine Fondue, “Fondue vigneronne” or “Fondue Bacchus”, similar to the oil fondue where meats are cooked on red wine or white wine seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, onions and herbs. Usually when the ingredients are cooked it is tipped with bearnaise, tartare or French mustard.
Fifth is the Broth Fondue, the closest to the hot pot hence it is also called the “Chinese fondue” or “Fondue chinoise” where meat and vegetables are cooked in a shared pot of broth.
Finally, the Slab fondue where a slab of stone or metal is oiled and meat is cooked over it like how we do it in pan, think of it like a large teppanyaki grill or a Mongolian barbecue but diners are the one cooking them. This fondue is a common type of fondue in South America.
One of my favourite communal dining, where marinated and unmarinated meats are cooked in built in grills in the middle of the dining table. Almost similar to the slab fondue but even better, why you might ask? Have you even tried bulgogi or kalbi? If not, then you are missing a lot.
While Korean Barbecue can be done at home on a portable electric bbq with a hot plate, best to experience this is in a proper eat all you can restaurants where you have the unlimited banchan and meat, plus that meaty smoky scent that sticks in your shirt 🙂
If the Koreans have this Americans, Aussies and Kiwis have their way of doing barbecue as well where it is done outdoors on a nice summer day with your family and friends. While meats are limited compared to the Korean variant what’s focused here is the combination of a nice meat cut and an ice-cold beer on the other hand.
Crawfish boil, another type of Western communal dining, popular in Louisiana Cajun tradition where it is served as a main event on community gatherings. This dining experience starts from the “Boil Master” who drops all the ingredients in a large pot, this person is responsible for the cooking process ensuring git is done properly. Once it is already the pot is drained then an array of seasoned crawfish and vegetables, usually corn and potatoes is spilled along a covered table where everyone gathers around, pick and eats straight of the table. Its messy but it’s fun and delicious.
If you think Crawfish boil then what about boodle fight? This Filipino army tradition is basically prepared with any Filipino dish you can think off, spilled and placed in a banana leaf lined long table and everyone partakes the meal with their hands. Usually dry dishes are served like grilled meats, vegetables and rice are popular items involved but it can include saucy dishes which are placed on the middle so the rice can keep the sauce from seeping through the edges of the table.
Eating any Ethiopian food is a social event, a communal experience, similar to Boodle fight but more orderly where different dishes are placed on a large platter for everyone to enjoy. Also, it is eaten by hand but with the help of Ethiopian bread called injera. One good thing about this communal experience is that you can feed someone with a bite of food which shows a gesture of love and/or friendship, it is called Gursha. Platters can come in mixed meat, vegetarian or mixed where it can consist of dishes like wat (beef stew), tibs (lamb, beef or goat cubes with kibeh), kitfo (raw ground beef), misir wat (red lentils), kik alicha (yellow split peas) and sils (spicy tomato stew) to name some.
If you want a very unique dining experience then definitely try this Japanese one, no it’s not your shabu shabu this one is an experience like no other, its where food is served on a female’s body, which they sometimes call “body sushi“. This communal eating method is quite old and started since the samurai period in Japan, it was a subculture to the geishas where it happens in a geisha house as a celebration after a victorious battle.
With this experience the female is generally expected not to move all times and not talk with the diners, the diners are also discouraged from talking to the female. Sushi and sashimi are then placed on leaves for sanitary purposes then laid on flat body areas of the model, so the food does not roll. Diners are only allowed to pick up the food with chopsticks, but some restaurant have strict rules. And if you think this is sexist don’t worry there is a male version as well called Nantaimori.
My favourite communal dining experience! Yum Cha. Originally served as brunch even before brunch as invented, basically it translates to “drink tea” but now most Chinese restaurants serve it at lunch. This Cantonese tradition happens during weekend mornings with family or friends where they are served with an array of dim sums in push carts, these little bites are accompanied with an endless supply of Chinese tea. Dim sums like Chicken feet, Fried pork dumplings (haam sui gok), Sesame balls (jian dui), Soup dumplings (xiao long bao), Steamed shrimp dumplings (har gow), Fried squid tentacles , Open-faced pork and shrimp dumplings (siu mai) and BBQ pork buns (char siu bao) are not to be missed.