• Celebrating Thanksgiving with a Chinese Flavor

    chinese family on Thanksgiving

    Holidays could be a lonely time for the first Chinese immigrants to the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1870s. Not only were the missing loved ones thousands of miles away, the holiday traditions themselves were like nothing the Chinese immigrants had experienced back home. This prompted many to develop traditions of their own that they passed on through the generations. Nearly 150 years later, some Chinese Americans embrace their dual cultures by incorporating traditions of both countries into their Thanksgiving celebrations.

    Making Thanksgiving Their Own

    In an effort to fit in and do things the American way, some Chinese families found themselves eating bland turkey, potatoes, and stuffing on Thanksgiving Day that bore no resemblance to the traditional foods they knew and loved. This caused some Chinese to dread Thanksgiving. It wasn’t that they weren’t grateful for the opportunities they had in America, they just couldn’t enjoy food that was so different from what they ate on a day-to-day basis. Many families began to put their own cultural twist on Thanksgiving after realizing that they just couldn’t keep eating food they found so unpleasant.

    One idea to make the Thanksgiving turkey more palatable to Asian families is to glaze it with Teriyaki sauce and stuff it with rice. Adding a lot of garlic and butter to mashed potatoes made them taste more like they came from the home country as well. Others swap out the turkey entirely for a the historically significant Peking Duck instead. Some other possibilities for a more “Chinese” twist on Thanksgiving include:

    • Dumplings
    • Fish cake soup
    • Genmai tea
    • Gravy made from shitake butter
    • Mochi and pumpkin pie
    • Mongolian hot pot
    • Roast duck stuffed with sticky rice
    • Stir fried green beans
    • Sushi and sashimi
    • Sweet potato tempura

    While some Chinese American families enjoy the same combination of dishes from both cultures every year, others found that they liked to continually expand their Thanksgiving day meal. For example, one Chinese immigrant who has called the United States home since 1982 started out with a more traditional American meal of turkey and fixing and evolved to his current recipe:

    • Start with a turkey breast weighing 8 to 10 pounds and add a few pinches of rosemary and one cup of soy sauce.
    • Use the tip of a knife to prick the turkey breasts and then add the rosemary underneath the skin of the breast. The cook should then remove the skin and place it in storage bag while adding the soy sauce at the same time. The bag now needs to go inside of a bowl in the refrigerator where it should sit for four to six hours to marinate. The cook should be certain to turn the bag containing turkey skin and soy cause over several times during that timeframe to ensure that it marinates evenly.
    • Now it’s time to prepare the fillings for the turkey. Some popular options include Chinese preserved sausage, shitaki mushrooms, dried shrimp, and sticky rice with chestnuts.
    • The cook should now set the temperature of the oven according to how much the turkey weighs. As the oven preheats, the cook should place the fillings inside of the turkey. Once the cooking is halfway complete, he or she can coat it with olive oil and apple honey and place back in the oven. Surrounding the turkey with regular potatoes or sweet potatoes is a nice touch before serving it.

    As the popularity of Thanksgiving grows, some Chinese locals have chosen to celebrate it in their birth country. Similar to the United States, natives of China often put their own twist on the foods they choose to serve and even the name of Thanksgiving itself. In some Chinese provinces, people refer to the holiday associated with giving thanks as Friendsgiving as they gather to celebrate love and friendship.

    The Best Local Restaurant to Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Chinese Flavor

    As an award-winning Chinese restaurant popular with natives of San Francisco and tourists alike, Chili House is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This includes Thanksgiving. With the American holiday just a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to make alternative plans to celebrate it without having to spend days cooking and preparing to serve guests. Instead of the traditional turkey dinner eaten by millions of Americans, those who want to stay close to their Asian roots can enjoy a feast of Peking duck and other dishes served family style and in generous portions.

    Chili House San Francisco has catered to large family groups for years. The staff loves to celebrate family and community and looks forward to preparing a Chinese Thanksgiving to remember for guests this 2019 holiday season.

  • The Presidential Prestige of Peking Duck

    Peking duck has long been a popular and revered dish in China. Chefs create this famous dish by allowing a duck to hang overnight and then pumping air under its skin. This helps to pull the fat out more during the roasting process, which results in extremely crispy skin on the outside and warm tender meat on the inside. Another reason the dish is so delicious is that chefs coat it in spices and sweet syrup after taking it down from its hanging position. From there, the Peking duck goes immediately into an oven containing fruit wood.

    After removing the Peking duck from the oven, chefs immediately bring it to the diners’ table to carve in front of them. They then serve the skin with small pieces of meat still attached along with small flour pancakes, scallions, and hoisin sauce. The remaining duck meat goes into a stir-fry and the carcass creates a duck broth soup.

    The Start and Spread of Peking Duck’s Popularity in the United States

    In 1972, President Richard Nixon visited China hoping to improve a strained diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Back at home, Americans watched a nightly review of Nixon’s speeches on television while feeling equally as interested in what he ate while in China. Nixon played the part of the Chinese guest well, sitting down nightly to huge feasts served with potent baijiu liquor.

    The United States had many Chinese restaurants prior to President Nixon’s 1972 visit. However, the chefs transformed the food into a highly Americanized version more recognizable to the palates of Westerners. Due to the intense media coverage of Nixon’s trip and its focus on what he ate while in China, Americans began to emulate his eating habits by trying more adventurous food and using traditional Chinese  chopsticks to eat it. Within 24 hours of one of Nixon’s dinners, a restaurant in New York replicated it and served it to curious American diners. Other restaurants soon followed suit,  spurring an authentic Chinese restaurant boon.

    President George H.W. Bush Also a Big Fan of Peking Duck

    George H.W. Bush occupied the office of vice president for eight years from 1980 to 1988 and then president from 1988 to 1992. During that time, he visited a 300-seat Asian restaurant called Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church, Virginia more than 50 times. Peking duck was his absolute favorite thing on the menu. He loved it so much, in fact, that he rarely looked at a menu and the staff already knew just what he wanted.

    The entire Bush family became regulars and then friends of owner George Tsui and his co-owner brother. It seemed only natural, then, that George H.W. and Barbara Bush invited Tsui and his staff to the Bushes home in Houston to help cater their 50th wedding anniversary celebration on January 6, 1995. The love for authentic Chinese food started with Nixon and extended to Bush and later his son George W. Bush, who was President of the United States from 2000 to 2008. Today, people across the country enjoy Peking duck and other Asian delicacies thanks to the notoriety these dishes gained from American presidents.