Thanksgiving is here! Thanksgiving is  a Western holiday, but many Asian families who immigrated have learned to love it. 

Growing up in an Asian-American household, my Thanksgivings were never traditional. We always had a hodgepodge of different foods, and we never stuck to one type of cuisine. 

During the Thanksgivings where we do include American dishes, we always incorporate some Asian dishes, just because they are staples in our household!

So I thought I would share with you a list of unorthodox Thanksgiving dishes of holidays past. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try something new this Thanksgiving! 

  1. 1 Hotpot (火鍋 huǒ guō)

    Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, Facebook

    Hotpot is a traditional Chinese cooking method that consists of cooking a variety of food in a simmering pot of broth. 

    Common foods include thinly sliced meat, bean sprouts, cabbage, seafood and even pork liver. These foods are usually accompanied by a mix of sauces. 

    My personal favorite combination is soy sauce, sesame oil and vinegar with ground ginger, garlic and cilantro. 

    Whenever my family have a large gathering, rather than make dozens of dishes and that had to cater to everyone's preference, we had hotpot. 

    My family has spent more than a couple Thanksgivings eating hot pot instead of turkey. It’s easy to prepare at home and completely customizable, so you can add whatever you like and disregard whatever you don’t!

  2. 2 Dim Sum (點心 diǎn xīn)

    Unfortunately these dishes are a bit more inaccessible, but just as vast and delicious. 

    Dim sum is a Cantonese cuisine that includes a wide range of small dishes. It is usually eaten during breakfast and lunch. The dishes range from boiled vegetables to dumplings to chicken feet, and are served with tea. 

    Although it isn’t a tradition to eat dim sum for dinner, paired with some hefty dishes it makes for a filling meal. 

    And of course my family is friends with the local dim sum restaurant, so visiting them is just like visiting family.

  3. 3 Steamed Fish (清蒸鱼 qīng zhēng yú)

    Instead of presenting a whole turkey, try presenting a whole fish! Or several fishes, if you have a lot of mouths to feed. 

    The trick to making this dish delicious is to get good quality fresh fish. Otherwise the preparation is quite simple. 

    You just need some scallion, ginger and soy sauce and oil of your choice. You can also add additional spices to the sauce. 

    Due to the simple preparation, this fish is a daily meal for many families. But it is still seen as a center-piece, fancy dish. There’s even a saying: 无鱼不成席 (Wú Yú Bù Chéng Xí), which means there’s no feast without a fish!

  4. 4 Braised Beef Brisket and Tendon (炆牛筋腩 wén niú jīn nán)

    This last dish is my personal favorite, and my dad makes it for me whenever he can (shoutout to my dad!) He takes the time to make it for every special occasion, including Thanksgiving. 

    It takes hours to make and is just as laborious as making a turkey, if not more so! It’s considered a comfort food and is widely popular in Hong Kong. 

    But even though it’s a comfort food, this dish takes three hours of cooking at least and a day of cooking at most. The beef is slow cooked for hours in a sauce/stew, until it just falls off the bone.

There is no right way to do Thanksgiving! I hope this inspires you to try something new and incorporate something different into your Thanksgiving this year. 

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Adriane Kong

Adriane Kong is a student pursuing a B.A in Urban Studies at Columbia University. She hopes to combine art and design to promote the voices of marginalized groups.
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