5 Ways To Celebrate a Real Chinese Thanksgiving

Steven Depolo

Earlier this week over dinner, I discussed Thanksgiving plans with my parents. I've never been too enamored with classic Thanksgiving dishes like roasted ham and green bean casserole and suggested that we break our holiday custom and opt for a Chinese-themed menu instead.

My father, always one to think ahead, told me he had already ordered Chinese turkey or "fire chicken," a dish I had never heard of until recently. Chinese turkey is roasted like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, but seasoned with Chinese herbs and spices. It's also a culinary secret that many people don't know about. 

Dishes like the "fire chicken" reveal that Chinese cuisine is a lot more diverse than we think it is. Oftentimes, maybe because all local Chinese takeout spots seem to serve the same roast duck rand chow mein platters (both of which are prominent in Cantonese cuisine), we think of Chinese food as one-note. The American palate has come to revere this sort of food and has largely ignored other flavorful dishes that come from different parts of China, such as Xi'an and Fuzhou. Some actively make the effort to try different styles of Chinese food, but most tend to feel comfortable with what's already been popularized.

As a Chinese-American, I still find myself exploring different types of Chinese cuisine. I live in New York, where I spend most of my weekends in Chinatown, a predominantly Cantonese and Fuzhounese neighborhood. Growing up, I was a picky eater who would only eat three kinds of Chinese food: roast pork, dim sum and Peking pork. My parents would often chide me for always ordering the same food at restaurants.

But as different types of Chinese cuisine have made their way into Chinatown and other ethnic Chinese neighborhoods over the years, my palate has gradually expanded. 

Today, I can tell you that, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, you should stay away from the pork fried rice if you plan on hosting a Chinese-themed festivity. Check out these five unique Chinese dishes instead.

1. Steamed Crab on Glutinous Rice

It may seem absurd, but this popular Cantonese dish, usually wrapped in a lotus leaf, mixes red crab with glutinous rice, bacon, shallots and mushrooms.

Click here for the recipe. 

2. Szechuan Eggplant

Eggplants never tasted better. This Southwestern Chinese dish features Asian eggplants smothered in bean sauce and chili paste. 

Click here for the recipe. 

3. Oyster Omelette

Most American omelettes have bits of bacon, slices of tomato and cheese, but this Chinese dish, widely known in Fujian and Taiwan, has bits of oysters and scallions. 

Click here for the recipe. 

4. Chinese Pickled Cabbage

What's a Thanksgiving dinner without some greens? Have some Chinese pickled cabbage or suan cai. It's widely eaten throughout China and comes in different variations. 

Click here for the recipe. 

5. Drunken Chicken

Yes, you didn't read it wrong. This eastern Chinese dish is marinated and cooked in Shaoxing wine. Don't worry. You won't get drunk off the first bite. 

Click here for the recipe.