Last year, for my husband's company holiday party, we came up with an idea I've been dying to replicate now that it's not freezing outside. We wanted to do an outdoor Peking duck station (vegetarians, avert your eyes), so the caterer designed this cool market stall set-up using bamboo poles, a couple of garden trellises, and a bunch of lanterns hung helter-skelter. It reminded us of night markets we've visited while traveling in Asia...
Of course, the market stall pictured here was styled by pros, but it would be easy enough to do something similar on your own. The lanterns and bamboo poles come from Chinatown, and of course so do the ducks. There's no need to have a chef manning the station (although it was pretty fun to watch his skills with the cleaver); instead you can set up a self-service bar, with the ducks pre-chopped, a steamer basket full of buns for wrapping the meat, and all the other fixings (scallions, hoisin sauce, etc).
If you're not into duck, why not use the market stall as a theme and set up a few different stalls with varied Asian offerings. A spring roll stall, a dumpling stall, a noodle stall... the possibilities are endless. Our caterer propped the steamer baskets up on bricks, heating them from underneath with canisters of sterno fuel, for a kind of makeshift chafing dish.
(Images: David Zlatchin)