OPEN houses are not the easiest things to put together. Period. You really do need to invest a lot of time, effort and money to create the perfect event. But don’t worry, throwing an open house doesn’t have to be a costly affair and if planned correctly, would not be as time-consuming as you think. However “effort” is still key.
The first thing you need to consider when planning an open house is the size of the event. Inviting large groups in one go usually entails having to spend more money. You’ll need to rent tents, tables and even crockery. However, the trend these days is to have smaller events with different groups of friends and family at different times of the day. This means you can use what you already have in your home to entertain the appropriate number of guests.
Once you’ve decided on the number of people that can comfortably “occupy” your home, you need to figure out your menu. In the past, catering wasn’t all that expensive. These days, it can cost up to RM75 per head for small events — that’s no small cost! There are actually a few ways around this but it will depend largely on how you want to serve your food.
There are a couple of options here. You can choose to have a sit down event with cheaper options such as a hot pot. But the more popular choice is to have a buffet where people can mingle and get their food whenever they want. If you’re going with this, there are many ways to cut costs. Some people utilise the four-part method for this — one-part finger food, one-part vegetables, one-part meats and one-part carbs.
For the finger food all you need to do is call up one of the many home cooks who advertise their services on social media. You’ll find everything from rissole, and curry puffs, to an assortment of kuih at reasonable prices. Better yet, look for options that are frozen so you can deep fry or bake them just when your guests arrive. Not only does the food taste better this way, but it’s also cheaper.
As for the vegetables, do aim to keep them raw. Salads or vegetables with dip are easier to prepare. You can slice, mix and package them a day or two in advance, making it extremely easy to put together when your guests arrive. However, if you want to stir-fry or cook your vegetables you can still portion them out. Include the sauces or marinades you’ll be using so you can whip it up at a moment’s notice.
As for the meats, you can marinate them days in advance or even slow cook them overnight so you’re not too tired for the duration of your open house. However, you don’t necessarily need to cook your meat. If you feel like serving them in new and interesting ways, you can buy pre-cooked meats (like roasted chicken) and dress them in pancakes or even toasted breads. You can even use pre-cooked meats in soups and stews, but with the cooking time significantly reduced.
As for the carbohydrates, make something you’re comfortable with. Anything from fried vermicelli to fried rice can be made in large amounts. But if you’re planning to cook them, you can prepare the sauce and aromatics a few days earlier and freeze them for when you need to use them. All it takes is stir-frying your onions, garlic and other aromatics with the desired sauces and sealing them in individual bags. Just place the frozen contents of the bag in a wok and you’re ready to go for when you need to serve.
But food isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when throwing an open house. Don’t forget to add a little music and some decorations to the mix. Finding a Chinese New Year playlist online is relatively simple and there are many new ways to decorate your home with homemade paper decorations that are not only cheap but also fun to make. It would also help set the mood for your guests.
Open houses should be fun. Just remember to make it a size you can handle. People now appreciate more homemade food and personal touches so there’s no need to shy away from trying to prepare everything yourself. Just ensure to get it done early so you don’t tire yourself out!