Waking up on Thanksgiving Day, I would always smell the aroma of Chinese sausage and dried shrimp, along with the sounds of my mom bustling around in the kitchen. Growing up as a second-generation Taiwanese, my family didn't celebrate “traditional” Thanksgiving with dishes such as mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. However, there were times when we did make turkey, but with sticky glutinous rice as the stuffing. Sticky rice with Chinese sausage is a common dish in the Chinese and Taiwanese food culture and is a common must-get at dim sum. You’ll usually see them in overturned glass bowls on the moving dim sum carts. Now, one thing that you MUST know about sticky rice is that it HAS to contain Chinese sausage, dried black mushrooms, and dried shrimp. Without this classic trio, sticky rice is just not sticky rice.
To make sticky rice, you have to first cook the rice in a rice cooker, but make sure that you use less water so that the rice does not come out overcooked or mushy. Then you have to set it aside to cool, so that the rice has a chance to harden before you put it into the turkey. While the rice is cooling, combine the oyster sauce, soy sauces, sesame oil, chicken stock, and salt into a bowl and set this all aside. Next, heat oil in a pot over medium heat and add the dried shrimp and stir-fry to bring out the flavor. After stir-frying for 30 seconds, add in the onion, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage, and stir-fry for another minute, while making sure the onions aren’t burnt. Then, add in the Shaoxing wine and stir-fry all the ingredients for another 2 minutes. After mixing all the ingredients together for 2 minutes, add in the cooked sticky rice and combine it with the sauce. Make sure to mix well, using scooping motions, so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of pot. Keep mixing until everything is uniform with color. After the sticky rice mixture is done cooking, season it with some white pepper and place it aside to cool while you prepare your turkey. My family just follows a simple recipe to cook turkey that can be found online. After the turkey is done being prepared, my mom usually puts the cooled sticky rice into the turkey and lets it cook more while the turkey is being cooked. When the turkey is done, my mom pulls it out and you can see the sizzling brown crust on the turkey, as well as the glistening sticky rice that is overflowing out of the turkey. The smell of the cooking sticky rice makes my mouth water, and when you taste it, you can experience all the different flavors from the dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, dried black mushrooms, and turkey juice come together into a heavenly bite.
At the dinner table, the turkey takes center stage and traditional Taiwanese dishes, such as steamed fish (yu), turnip cake (luo buo gao), tea eggs (cha ye dan), and mustard greens (changnian cai), surround it. For dessert, instead of pumpkin pie, we eat a variety of fruits (shui guo) and eat sweet rice balls (tang yuan).
Although my family’s traditions may not be yours, this was one way that I was able to find my Taiwanese identity. If you ever want to change up your Thanksgiving dinner, you can try this recipe.
photo from Chew Out Loud