Giant Robot's Thanksgiving
THE ROBOTS TELL US HOW THEY CELEBRATE A CLASSIC HOLIDAY
More than anything, Asians gravitate towards food and family. Any small occasion is a reason to go into overdrive, preparing an elaborate banquet for dozens of relatives to gather and gossip. So it’s no wonder many have strong feelings about Thanksgiving – especially as cultures are fused, and twists taken on the American tradition. This year, the Giant Robot team asked its robots and chefs to share their best experiences of the holiday. What memories do they have of Thanksgiving? Is it an event to be cherished with loved ones? And most importantly, what dish do they always make?
By Angela Hsu
For me, Thanksgiving has lost all of its original meaning. As far as it relates to "finding a country," that's a load of shit. It's similar to how Columbus Day is more about genocide than peace. Since it's a day off, the meaning is whatever I attach to it. Last year I baked a turkey for the first time to donate to the Westside Thanksgiving Dinner for veterans and folks who don't have anywhere to go. I'd rather adopt that as a tradition.
A special fusion dish? Turkey and sashimi. It's a mix of Japanese food and turkey and ham. In the end, we don't do too much for Thanksgiving, since it's not something my parents grew up with. I don't bother using gravy on anything. And stuffing? Fuck that shit.
Nothing is fusion, it's more traditional and Western dishes served side by side. In that way, the entire meal is a collision of foods. Even if there was a single fusion dish, I'd say that it's really about the moments, not the food itself. Foods can be replicated over and over, but moments cannot.
-Eric Nakamura, Giant Robot Media (GRM) Editor In-Chief, CCO
I would say the only traditional Thanksgiving dishes my family cooks are the turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and potato salad. After that, the rules get thrown out the window.
For the turkey’s stuffing we make Taiwanese pork sticky rice (油飯). We steam the sticky rice in a rice cooker, and then stir-fry it with Taiwanese sausage, star anise, and mushrooms. Before we bake the turkey, the sticky rice gets stuffed inside. After it bakes, all the turkey’s juices and flavors gets infused in the rice, so it’s soft like risotto, but filled with a Taiwanese flavor explosion.
When I turned 12, my dad gave me the whole “You’re Now a Man” speech. In the Chinese zodiac, your birthday comes around every 12 years, and your zodiac birthday at age 12 is traditionally when you become a grownup. As a test of manhood, he had me bake and carve the turkey. I think he was just tired of always making turkey.
-George Ko, GRM CEO
I'm pretty straightforward with Thanksgiving. Though in the past, I've made stuffing (with the Stove Top brand, natch) mixed with lap cheong sausage and Chinese chestnuts.
-Jon Wu, Nom Wah Tu
What I remember most about every Thanksgiving feast is the aftermath, and the way my aunties would diligently divvy the leftovers to be spun into another week of meals. My dad usually angled to take home the ham bone; coming from a family that couldn’t always afford meat, he saw in the mutilated carcass ample protein for tomorrow’s pièce de résistance.
On Friday the ham bone would be dropped into a vat of boiling water, alongside half a chopped Napa cabbage and thin slices of daikon. The resulting ham and vegetable soup is always light, flavorful, and healthy – exactly what my body needs as it comes to terms with the previous night’s gluttony.
-Angela Hsu, GRM Storyteller
When I think about Turkey Day, it’s actually Whole Chicken Day.
I prepare the chicken by spatchcocking it, marinating it, and then deep-frying the whole sucker. Nothing better in my book. Number one, it’s harder to dry out chickens than turkeys, since it’s not as lean as turkey. Two, the marinade really seeps in when you spatchcock it. Finally, that crispity, crackity skin is the well-deserved treat for all that cooking you did.
I grew up in a very independent, not so lovey-dovey family – so basically every Asian immigrant family. Turkey (Chicken) Day was that one day we would gather and grab a meal. My dad would walk in with a Boston Market bag, because my mom doesn’t cook. (Thank God!)
-Deuki Hong, Sunday Bird
I came to the U.S. for college, so the closest experience I’ve had to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner was a table full of canned cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing, and turkey ham from Ralph’s at a friend’s dorm. Most years, I spent the holidays with fellow international transplants furiously on their phones, trying to find a decent restaurant that’s still open. To me, Thanksgiving is a reminder that I have not quite laid down my roots and curious excitement that transience brings.
-Sharon Choi, GRM Video Storyteller
Thanksgiving is a moment for my friends, family, and I to spend quality time together. We're at a point in our lives where everything is moving quickly and people are always busy, so it's nice to just slow down for a day or two.
I'm the only one with Western culinary expertise, so during the holidays, I make something I dubbed "East Meets West Chicken", which is oven roasted chicken thighs and legs.
To make it, I mix olive oil, sesame oil, gochujang, miso paste, toasted white sesame, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, onion, minced garlic, white wine, paprika, cayenne, and honey into a marinade and let the chicken sit in it overnight. The next day, I bring it out and let it get up to room temperature. I seer the chicken on cast iron, skin side down. Then I top the chicken with a dollop of butter and bake it.
Since I started playing with this recipe about three years ago, my mom brags to her friends and family that I learned how to mesh Western cuisine with the food I grew up eating. She doesn't explicitly express how she feels, but her face lights up every time I say I'm going to make this dish and she's always eager to lend a helping hand in the kitchen when I'm prepping the ingredients.
-Kevin Vu Kim, GRM Photo Storyteller
I don’t believe in Thanksgiving.
-Roy Choi, Kogi BBQ, Chego, POT, A-Frame, & Locol