This is the fourth time I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner. As we've gotten older, there's less and less occasion for the cousins to gather. This year, I fed 18 people. So despite the full day of cooking that usually entails, I actually enjoy hosting. I usually make one or two turkeys, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing. Other dishes might vary from typical American sides to ethnic ones. Someone usually brings a pie or two to finish off the meal.
Really, all my cousins want are the core dishes -- the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie. After all, Thanksgiving really is the only time of year we eat all of the above. But this year, I decided to mess around a bit with tradition.
It started off with a recent visit to the San Gabriel Superstore. While waiting for my half-duck to get cut up for my Thai red curry with roast duck recipe, I noticed a sign for turkey with free sticky rice for $35.
Then Foodbuzz put out the call for Thanksgiving ideas for the November edition of Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24, in which 24 food bloggers post about 24 meals in 24 hours.
That challenge got me thinking. Could I still serve a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner with all the usual side dishes, but with an Asian fusion twist? I didn't want to just serve Asian dishes on Thanksgiving. I wanted to add my own variation to popular "traditional" American Thanksgiving dishes. Since the turkey was being made roast duck-style from a Chinese barbecue, it seemed obvious to serve it with the usual Peking duck accompaniments of flour wrappers, scallions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce. How would I handle the mashed potatoes? Green beans? Pot pie? Dinner rolls? Pumpkin pie?
Wanna see what I did?
Lil' sis picked up the roast turkey from the store at 4 p.m., my designated pick-up time. She said there was a huge crowd of people. I guess most people didn't want to make their own turkey either? The turkey was ... underwhelming. It was cold, dry, and rather anemic. Oh no! I should have stuck to last year's salt rub and butter turkey. The turkey ended up not being as dry as I feared, but not as good as my homemade version.
Lil' sis had to insist that they give us the free sticky rice that was advertised. They tried to tell her that I only paid for a turkey and nothing else. Ha! The free sticky rice was written right on their sign. Anyway, the sticky rice was marvelous, studded with dried shrimp and Chinese sausage.
Instead of the usual mashed potatoes, I decided to make mashed Okinawan sweet potatoes. Look at that color! I've cooked with these sweet potatoes before when I made purple aloo gobi (Indian potatoes and cauliflower) and the result was an almost black mess. But add butter, milk, and sour cream and I got this gorgeous purple. I served this with cream gravy since the white gravy better complemented the purple sweet potatoes.
I've tried making the traditional canned green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and fried onions. Blech! Soggy. Salty. Instead, I recently tried replicating, with good results, the Sichuan green beans I enjoyed at several Chinese restaurants. Admit it. You'd rather eat this version of green beans than that mushy casserole.
Instead of a typical chicken pot pie, I decided to make ca ri ga (Vietnamese chicken curry) pot pie. I originally planned a Thai green curry pot pie, and I'll still probably try at some point, but when I started cooking, the simple ingredients of chicken, potatoes, and carrots with curry powder and coconut milk seemed much more appealing.
My family usually serves store-bought dinner rolls. You know, the packaged brown-n-serve kind you see in the top photo. Since I was going all-purple with the mashed potatoes, I also wanted to try making taro dinner rolls, a variation of Hawaiian sweet rolls. I adapted a potato dinner roll recipe, subbing taro for the potatoes, added some of the mashed Okinawan purple sweet potatoes for color, and a bit of sugar for sweetness. The result wasn't quite as taro-y as I wanted, but was a hit with my youngest aunt and the oldest '87's middle sister.
OK, now we get to the roast turkey served Peking duck-style.
Peking Duck-Style Roast Turkey with Flour Wrappers, Scallions, Cucumbers, and Cranberry/Plum/Hoisin Sauce
Flour wrappers, the kind for Peking duck or moo shoo pork
Scallions, white parts only, julienned
Persian or Japanese cucumbers with less seeds, julienned
The traditional cranberry sauce.
To which I added equal amounts of plum sauce, otherwise known as duck sauce, and hoisin sauce.
Peking duck wrappers look like tortilla wrappers but they're a bit thinner. Create a wrap by piling on the roast turkey, julienned scallions, julienned cucumbers, and cranberry/plum/hoisin sauce.
Here's my plate with the roast turkey, Peking duck-style roast turky wrap, Vietnamese curry chicken pot pie, Sichuan green beans, taro dinner rolls, and mashed Okinawan purple sweet potatoes with cream gravy.
But wait! I wasn't done fiddling around with tradition.
Instead of the typical canned pumpkin pie, I had a fresh sugar pumpkin I wanted to bake into a pie. Rather than using pumpkin pie spice, I wanted to add Indian spices such as cardamom. That gradually evolved into making chai black tea with cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger. So I baked a pumpkin pie with chai spices. The cardamom lent a subtle aromatic twist.
Since I had already steeped the mixture in soy milk to be blended with the pumpkin puree, I poured the extra chai black tea into a cup and I took a quick 5 second break.
Then it was back to work!
I still had an apple crumble pie that the oldest '87 had requested. I told her she had to come over and peel the apples. Ha! Her middle sister did it instead.
And cousin Q's older brother purchased a black forest cake from Taiwanese chain, 85 Degrees C Bakery Cafe in Irvine.
The oldest '88 is currently studying abroad in Japan and requested I make her a frozen turkey dinner like I did last year for the middle '87, who studied abroad in Singapore.
My cousins were bewildered by this year's menu and asked why I couldn't make the traditional dishes. Well, lil' sis made 5 lbs of sour cream mashed potatoes and three boxes of Stove Top stuffing so that appeased them.
Cousin Q's mom made two Hainanese chickens with rice with mam gung (Vietnamese ginger fish sauce), and a salad.
My oldest uncle's wife sent over Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls).
Lil' sis's best friend brought his mom's egg rolls and a crudite platter.
My brother and his wife brought blueberry pie and plenty of Italian sodas.
The oldest 87's middle sister brought ice cream to go with all the pies.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Thanks Foodbuzz for allowing me the opportunity to get creative with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. See what other food bloggers did for the November 24, 24, 24 event. Diana of Appetite for China had a real Peking duck dinner in Beijing, China for her post on this month's event.
I'll be posting recipes to all of these dishes in the coming weeks. Which would you like to see first? And what do you think of my Asian fusion twist to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Would you serve these side dishes or stick to the traditional dishes?
My "Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with an Asian Fusion Twist" recipes:
Peking Duck-Style Roast Turkey with Flour Wrappers, Scallions, Cucumbers and Cranberry/Plum/Hoisin Sauce
Mashed Okinawan Purple Sweet Potatoes
Sichuan Green Beans
Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Curry Chicken) Pot Pie
Taro Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Pie with Chai Spices
Chai Black Tea
Apple Crumble Pie
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