A Chinese-American Thanksgiving Turkey

Most Americans sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner of roast turkey and bread stuffing with all the trimmings. In my house we had a Chinese-American version of this very American feast. I have since learned that many of my fellow Chinese-Americans enjoyed versions similar to my mother’s turkey. Ours was usually stuffed with a glutinous-rice mixture, which Chinese cooks usually used for chicken. Most often the turkey was steamed first, then roasted briefly to make the skin crisp and to give the turkey a nice colour. This very Chinese method ensured that the large bird stayed moist, unlike the usual American-style product.

My mother used a large enamel roasting tin to steam the bird. In China, because only restaurants had ovens, we would have fried the turkey after the steaming to give the skin colour and crispiness. In America, we made the most of our oven. My mother always got the smallest turkey possible. I wonder if it was because of our small oven or the tiny refrigerator that we had. Or perhaps she couldn’t stand to have turkey leftovers for weeks on end.

The turkey bones can be deliciously recycled in a Turkey ‘Shee Fan’. I was always impressed by my mother’s ways of using leftover turkey: for example, in stir-fried dishes, or as a stuffing in bean curd, or shredded into soups.

Much of the work involved in this recipe can be done ahead of time: the rice stuffing can be made even days ahead and kept refrigerated. Once steamed, the turkey is really cooked. A quick roast serves only to give it the desired golden-brown skin. It is truly a Chinese-American creation and one you’ll love.

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  • 1×5.4–6.3 kg (12–14 lb) fresh or frozen turkey
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 750 ml ( pints) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock, for the sauce

For the Rice and Sausage Stuffing

  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) glutinous rice (also known as sweet or sticky rice)
  • 55 g (2 oz) dried black mushrooms
  • 675 g ( lb) minced pork
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 55 g (2 oz) finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 450 g (1 lb) Chinese pork sausage, chopped
  • 225 g (8 oz) fresh or canned water chestnuts, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 750 ml ( pints) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock


Dry the turkey inside and out with kitchen paper, reserving the giblets. Rub the skin with sesame oil. Mix the salt and pepper and rub this evenly over the turkey. Set aside. You can do this a day in advance; cover the turkey in cling film and refrigerate. Coarsely chop the turkey giblets and set aside.

Put the glutinous rice in a large bowl, cover it with cold water and soak for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain thoroughly.

Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes. Then drain them and squeeze out the excess liquid. Remove and discard the stems and coarsely chop the caps.

Combine the minced pork with 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice wine, the sesame oil, salt and pepper and set aside for 20 minutes.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the spring onions and ginger and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Then dump in the pork and the reserved turkey giblets and stir-fry for 3 minutes, breaking up the pork. Now toss in the mushrooms, Chinese sausage, glutinous rice and water chestnuts and continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes, or until everything is thoroughly mixed. Pour in the chicken stock and the remaining soy sauce and rice wine and mix well. Taste for salt and add several good grindings of freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool thoroughly.

Using your hands, carefully separate the skin of the turkey breast from the meat. Then insert a thin layer of stuffing between the turkey breast and skin. Next, loosely fill the cavity of the turkey with the stuffing and close with a skewer. Any remaining stuffing can be spooned into a heatproof baking dish, steamed for 40 minutes and served separately.

Place the turkey on a deep, heatproof platter on a rack in a large roasting tin. Add enough hot water to the tin to come to 4 cm ( in) beneath the rack. Cover the tin tightly with a lid or aluminium foil. Bring the water to a simmer, turn the heat to low and gently steam for 3½ hours, or until the thigh juices run clean when pricked. Be sure to replenish the steaming water from time to time, as necessary. Remove the turkey from the platter, reserving any juices that may have collected. Discard the steaming water.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Place the cooked turkey on a rack in a roasting tin and cook for 25 minutes, then increase the temperature to 230°C (450°F, gas mark 8) and roast for a further 15 minutes, until the turkey is golden brown.

Make the sauce. While the turkey is roasting, combine the chicken stock and the reserved turkey juices in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and reduce it by half. Taste and adjust for seasoning by adding salt and pepper.

Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving. Serve the carved turkey and stuffing with the sauce.