Turkey ‘Shee Fan’

Whenever I talk with my Chinese-American friends – Amy Tan, Gordon Wing, Lillian Chou and many others – about food, about family meals, about favourite dishes, we often sound like siblings recalling one family’s experiences.

I know that our sharing the same culinary traditions and customs is to be expected. Nevertheless, I still find it striking how closely the traditions and practices were followed in America, from Chicago to Boston, from Los Angeles to Seattle.

This soup is one of the practices shared by all Chinese-Americans. After every Thanksgiving meal, every Chinese-American mother would carefully save the carcass of the turkey. A broth would be made with these remains, and then a small amount of rice would be added. The result is turkey ‘shee fan,’ or ‘broken rice in turkey broth’.

A true Chinese-American concoction, the satisfying rice porridge would soak up the savoury turkey flavours. There was something comforting about shee fan for Chinese-Americans, the way chicken soup is for Jewish-Americans.

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  • 1 cooked turkey carcass
  • 2.8 litres (5 pints) water, Chinese Chicken Stock, or store-bought fresh stock
  • 45 g ( oz) long-grain white rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Put the carcass and water in a large pot and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. Remove the bones and carcass and toss in the rice and salt. Raise the heat, let the mixture come back to the boil and give it several good stirs. Then turn the heat down to low and partially cover the pot. Let the rice simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more salt if necessary. This soup can be served immediately or, if you like, can be made in advance. In the latter case, reheat it slowly and simply add some more water if the porridge is too thick.