20 Nov / A Steamed Thanksgiving Bird
When I was researching my first book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, several Chinese Americans I spoke to told me that their parents prepared steamed chicken or duck instead of roast turkey for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t surprised because steaming is more traditional than roasting in many Asian cultures.
One person recalled that she ate steamed turkey during the holidays when she was growing up. I was doubtful you could find a steamer large enough to fit a turkey (maybe the turkey was in parts?!), but who knows, maybe industrial-sized steamers are available in a Chinatown somewhere!
Ever since then, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of steaming a bird for Thanksgiving. Truth be told, I’ve never steamed poultry before and I wasn’t sure where to start. But I knew I didn’t want to attempt steaming a turkey; I didn’t want to wrestle a 12-pound turkey (the smalllest I could find) into a steaming apparatus, nor did I want to risk serving a raw bird to my guests. So I settled on a whole chicken.
In September, I received a copy of Kian Lam Kho’s just-released Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking (Clarkson Potter, September 2015). As I perused the recipes in this 368-page tome, I found a couple of recipes (or parts of recipes) for steamed chicken. One recipe–the recipe for “Tea Smoked Duck”—called out my name.
Making Kian’s tea-smoked duck is a four-part process–marinating, steaming, smoking, and deep-frying. I decided to simplify the recipe by marinating, steaming, and finally roasting the chicken until burnished. (Go here for tips on stovetop steaming.)
I know I said I wanted to a steamed chicken, and you most definitely can stop there (just paint some sesame oil all over the skin to make it shine). However, I found the pale chicken quite unfestive and wanted to go one step further and give the bird some color. Either way, the chicken is delicious, with the marinade permeating every morsel of meat. Although I must say that the sweet and tangy glaze shellacs the skin beautifully and makes the chicken taste extra special.
So if you’re open to a different kind of bird this Thanksgiving, do give this recipe a try!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!