Food plating is about the presentation of food to increase desire and impress your diners. Learn the 5 basic elements of plating, as well as Asian plating techniques and tips to provide inspiration for creating your own.

The 5 basic elements of plating

Create a framework

Start with drawings and sketches to visualise the plate. Find inspiration from a picture or object. Assemble a “practice” plate to work on executing your vision.

Keep it simple
Select one ingredient to focus on and use space to simplify the presentation. Clutter distracts from the main elements of your dish and might confuse the diners on what to focus on.

Balance the dish
Play with colours, shapes and textures to ensure that diners are not overwhelmed. The presentation should never overpower flavour and function.

Get the right portion size
Ensure there is the right amount of ingredients and the plate complements the dish – not too big or small. Strike the right proportion of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables to create a nutritionally balanced meal.

Highlight the key ingredient
Ensure the main ingredient stands out and pay equal attention to the “support”. This refers to the other elements on the plate such as garnishes, sauces and even the plate itself.

Plating for Asian dishes


Sharing is common in Asian dining. Though challenging to plate, you can still use aesthetically pleasing garnishes and interesting bowls or containers, such as steamboats, dim sum baskets and even banana leaves, to heighten presentation.

As more Asian restaurants adopt a more modern style, smaller individual-sized servings are becoming increasingly common. When plating such dishes, adopt Western presentation techniques.

One-dish meals
Local favourites such as nasi lemak are complete meals. The starch is usually plated in the centre, topped with protein and vegetables placed around the sides. For such one-dish meals, balance the colour and texture of these dishes.

Additional factors of plating

Moulded ingredients

Cleverly cut or sculpted ingredients can enhance the visual appeal of dishes. Slice fillets of meat at a bias to show doneness and quality. Sculpted food also provides height and structure and keeps the plate neat and clean.

Create accents in the form of dots on the side of the plate or as a character on one side of the plate. When applying a sauce, lightly pour or drizzle it on the plate either over the dish or underneath.

Garnishes serve as an accent to perk up or highlight the colour of the main dish. It’s meant to enhance and match the flavours of the dish, not overpower it. Here are some simple guidelines to applying garnishes:

  • Refrain from heaping garnishing on one corner of the plate.
  • Enhance colours and shapes by arranging the garnishes around the main dish.
  • Garnishes should always be edible so avoid using parsley flowers, lemon twists, cinnamon sticks or raw herbs. 
  • Garnishing should be applied quickly to ensure the food arrives at the table warm.

The elements of plating are just one way to whet your diners’ appetites. Learn how to create a balanced menu that will tempt a wider range of diners.