Some of the 40 people state that they can't tolerate too much spice.
I have access to two stovetops (eight burners).
My budget is pretty limited--about $2.50-3.00 per person for the whole meal.
If you type "asian chicken wings" in the Search box (click the magnifying glass in upper right corner and choose Recipes from the pull-down listl), you'll get a bunch of recipes. You could substitute any kind of chicken parts for the wings if you want meatier pieces than wings. You may need to increase the amount of sauce if you use bigger chicken parts vs wings.
Consider some variation of "three cup chicken," so called because you simmer the meat in a sauce that's equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine (making it very easy to scale up).
A slightly off-center answer. Try Tom Kha Gai a Thai street food coconut chicken soup. Not exactly Chinese, but great Asian notes of lemon grass, galangal, fish sauce. And since the meat is in the soup, you can serve a protein-sufficient serving w/o breaking the bank. There are lots of good recipes out there, but/and I really on Vongerichten's recipe for from his Vong restaurant (RIP). He only calls it coconut chicken soup, but it's Tom Kha Gai.
My favorites include Kung Pao chicken, chicken with cashews and chicken with chili sauce.
I recommend making red-cooked chicken and serving with hot cooked rice. Here's a good recipe: http://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/red-cooked-chicken
You can use a whole chicken or cut-up chicken parts (Iike thighs and/or wings). Everything is cooked on a stovetop and most conveniently, the cooking liquid can be reused to cook more chicken and serve as a dipping sauce. The chicken cooks up quickly, especially the cut parts. You can even cook it ahead of time. The flavor is a rich soy sauce with hints of ginger & star anise. Not spicy at all. Very crowd-friendly.
It's a great recipe that I also recommend... but cooking on a stovetop for 40 people is not very easy. I would recommend a dish that can be done in an oven and/or also a grill, to cope with the volume.
Mu shu chicken would be pretty cheap, I think, very easy to scale up, and easy to serve family style -- people could even assemble it themselves, which could be fun if your event is fairly casual.
I agree on the red-cooked chicken. You can substitute light brown sugar for the rock sugar mentioned in the previously suggested recipe. I would recommend garnishing with thinly sliced scallions and serving simole braised/steamed greens as a side dish
I agree on the red-cooked chicken. You can substitute light brown sugar for the rock sugar mentioned in the previously suggested recipe. I would recommend garnishing with thinly sliced scallions and serving simple braised/steamed greens as a side dish