Thanksgiving, Chinatown Style
Chef Zi-Guo Chen
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — L.A.’s Chinatown is steeped in rich traditions….plazas, parades, pailoo, museums, markets, festivals, Thanksgiving Turkeys. Yes, Turkeys.
Though turkeys are not commonly eaten in China, generations of Chinese Americans have merged the American Thanksgiving traditions into their cuisine. As a result, an increasing number of Angelenos drive into the historic district year after year to bring the specially-seasoned birds home for their own Thanksgiving meal.
Chef Zi-Guo Chen, who has been with Golden City Seafood for eight years, uses Asian spices to steep and BBQ Roast Fresh Young Turkeys. In an 72-hour process, similar to Peking Duck preparation, the bird gets a crispy, seared skin and stays more moist and tender than a traditional oven roasted turkey. It is accompanied by a creamy Red Bean Curd Gravy with bits of carrot that is surprisingly reminiscent of pan gravy.
During November, Chinatown restaurants offer these succulent turkeys and sauce ready to take home and serve; some have been doing so for more than 20 years. But don’t expect a side of mashed potatoes and stuffing. The whole meal gets a Chinatown spin. Sticky Rice, which gets its texture from a blend of glutinous rice (also called sweet rice) and jasmine rice, is the Chinese answer to bread stuffing and is served alongside the turkey. The bits of sausage provide that familiar stuffing flavor. These Chinese food traditions have been passed down and are catching on beyond the Chinese American community with those looking for a change to the usual American Thanksgiving fare.
Chen’s ideas for authentic Chinese side dishes include a palette cleansing Winter Melon Soup. Clear, supreme broth glistens with bits of plump shrimp and meaty mushrooms. The side of Bamboo Fungus and Black Mushrooms with Snow Pea Leaves is the answer to tired green beans. Not to be outdone by turkey, the French Style Filet Mignon is tender, sweet and sour without being sticky. Golden Garlic Tofu will turn anyone into a tofu lover. The chunky bits of garlic crunch hold a warm, pudding-like middle. For dessert, Phoenix Bakery offers the finest, mousse-like pumpkin pie with a perfectly flaky crust. Don’t miss this; it’s only available mid-November through the end of December.
Thanksgiving is a time for traditions old and new, unique and usual. The staple Crispy Fried Chicken and Peking Duck on Chinese menus are especially delicious, so it’s easy to understand the growing trend of considering a Chinatown Chinese turkey for Thanksgiving. The Chinese turkeys sell out every year, so reserve one early. Prices range from $30-60 depending on size and, with all the work done for you, that’s a unique tradition I’ll thankfully keep.
Chinatown Turkey Offerings
CBS Seafood Restaurant / 700 N. Spring / 213.617.2323
Roasted Turkey ($38+Tax, 16‐20 lbs) Place order 3 days in advance
Golden City Seafood Restaurant / 960 N. Hill / 213.253.2660
BBQ Roasted Young Turkey ($45+Tax, 14 lbs. includes pan-fried sticky rice, gravy, and a small bottle of red wine.) Place order 3 to 4 days in advance. Order through Nov. 30.
Hong Kong Chinese BBQ / 803 N. Broadway / 213.687.7238
Roasted turkey with sauce ($39, 15 -17 lbs.; $45 Roasted turkey with sticky rice and sauce Place order one week in advance.
Hop Woo BBQ Seafood Restaurant / 845 N. Broadway / 213.617.3038
Roasted turkey ($38, 16-20 lbs, includes garlic rice cooked in clay pot and special sauce.) Place order one day in advance.
J&K Hong Kong Cuisine / 724 N. Hill, #216 / 213.617.0638
Roasted turkey ($45.95, 13-15 lbs, includes beef fried) Place order two days in advance
Lien-Hoa Deli / 721 N. Broadway / 213.625.5001
Roasted Turkey ($43, 13-16 lbs) Place order four days in advance.
Lucky Deli (Wol Deli) / 706 N. Broadway / 213.625.7847
Roasted turkey, call for prices, place order a week in advance.
Master Chef Restaurant / 937 N. Hill / 213.687.3638
All diners will receive a free turkey dish with their meal (dine-in only on Thanksgiving Day)
Ocean Seafood Restaurant / 750 N. Hill / 213.687.3088
Roasted turkey (13 lbs, call for price)
San Woo BBQ Express / 727 N. Hill #111 / 213.617.1063
Roasted turkey ($29.99, 12-15 lbs) Place order three days in advance.
Spring Street Smoke House / 640 N. Spring / 213.626.0535
Smoked turkey ($60.18, 14-16 lbs) Place order four days in advance.
Yum Cha Cafe / 638 N. Broadway / 213.617.8698
Roasted turkey ($35+tax, 12-14 lbs, includes sticky rice and sauce) Place order three to four days in advance