Peter Som’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Menu Is a Chinese American Feast

If you don’t count last year, I’ve always hosted Thanksgiving at my place in the West Village. It’s one of my most favorite holidays. I love renting long tables and arranging flowers, squeezing 25 people into my apartment and cooking everything from scratch. It’s very come-one-come-all.

That’s just how it was in my family, growing up in San Francisco. We’d have anyone who was free over: assorted aunties and uncles, a few neighbors, oftentimes a family friend’s son or daughter in the states for college. I’m Chinese American, so our Thanksgiving menu was always a mash-up of those cultures. We had the turkey, the sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, and then steamed gai lai or bok choy and my grandmother’s no mai fan—sticky rice studded with lap cheong. It was so focused on what, to me, cooking is all about: bringing people together.

Photograph by Jenny Huang

Last Thanksgiving, I celebrated with just my boyfriend and two friends, our little pod. Since we were in the middle of the pandemic, we thought, Let’s make what we adore. I cooked char siu, which is a Chinese barbecue pork that’s sweet, sticky, tender, and delicious, and my version of no mai fan. This year, I’m keeping that ethos but doing things a little differently: I’m going all in. 

I’m making char siu but rolling it up with shiitake duxelles and turning it into Wellington. I’m indulging in the vegetables, with a sweet potato tian speckled with five-spice, roasted Brussels sprouts tossed in a flavor bomb of gochujang and brown butter, and a super crunchy Asian pear and shaved cauliflower salad. The no mai fan is a must, and to finish, I’ve got a bread pudding with a milk tea-sweetened custard as a nod to my family’s Hong Kong history. Adding boba to milk tea is de rigueur these days, but I thought in this case it might be gilding the lily too much.

No matter how topsy-turvy the world can feel in these times, this is one Thanksgiving menu that makes me smile.

The Recipes

Char Siu Wellington

Char Siu Wellington

This showstopping centerpiece combines the flavors of very Cantonese sticky-sweet char siu pork with those of very British beef Wellington.

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Asian Pear Salad With PeanutLime Dressing

Asian Pear Salad With Peanut-Lime Dressing

This sweet-tart salad gets its satisfying crisp-crunchy texture from floral Asian pears and nutty raw cauliflower.

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Dutch Oven No Mai Fan

Dutch Oven No Mai Fan

This one-pot wonder of sticky rice studded with sweet and savory lap cheong, umami-packed shiitakes, and other savory bits is the cozy meal your weeknight cooking repertoire needs. 

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Sweet Potato Tian recipe

Sweet Potato Tian

Thin rounds baked until tender and crispy-edged in a warming five-spice brown butter sauce might just be our new favorite way to serve sweet potatoes.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Gochujang Brown Butter

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Gochujang Brown Butter

Crispy Brussels sprouts + sweet-spicy gochujang + nutty brown butter = the side dish you can’t say no to.

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Milk Tea Bread Pudding With Crme Anglaise

Milk Tea Bread Pudding With Crème Anglaise

Sweet, bitter, creamy, and so, so good, milk tea makes for an irresistible base for this bread pudding.

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The Pantry

Kam Yen Jan Chinese Style Sausage

This Cantonese cured pork sausage has a distinctive sweet and savory flavor. For me, it’s a must-have in fried rice and no mai fan, but I like to toss it into braises and anything else that needs an extra bump of flavor.

Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark Soy Sauce

Dark soy is thicker—and yes, darker—than the usual light soy sauce with which most of us are familiar. It’s slightly sweet and adds a lovely amber color to anything you add it to like noodles, rice, and chicken.

Koda Farms Premium Sweet Rice

Also known as sticky rice or glutinous rice, this round-grain rice becomes sticky when cooked and it’s used widely in Chinese cooking (and many other Asian cuisines, too). I grew up eating it in my grandmother’s no mai fan, but it’s also great for Thai-inspired coconut sticky rice with mango.

Mother-In-Law’s Gochujang

I didn’t grow up with gochujang, but now I always reach for the Korean fermented chile paste when I’m looking for a hit of complex heat. I love it mixed with honey for barbecue sauce, Kewpie mayo for a quick dipping sauce, or combined with browned butter for roasted vegetables.

Simply Organic Five Spice Powder

Made of fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns, this spice is infinitely versatile. It brings warmth to whatever I’m making—banana bread, braised short ribs, meatballs, even brownies. I like to say it’s pumpkin spice’s bolder cousin.

Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce

A base of fermented soybean paste gives this rich sauce an umami punch. Hoisin is widely used as a dipping sauce or a glaze, but I also love tossing it with butter and pasta for a quick dinner.

The Table

Lost Quarry Ribbed Plates

My friend Doris [Josovitz] started this ceramics company a few years ago. I love the feel and the nuanced finish to her pieces.

Bowen Liu Saddle Cutting & Serving Board

There is no chicer way to serve charcuterie than on these boards. They are crisp and graphic.

Loyale Grey Gingham Linen Napkin

I love these napkins for many reasons—they’re made from beautiful Japanese cotton and can be used as napkins or kitchen towels—but the main two are because they’re from an AAPI women-owned company and they’re made in my hometown San Francisco.

Nude Jour Red Wine Glasses

These wine glasses add a touch of elegant whimsy to the dining table. They’re always a conversation starter.

Wing on Wo & Co. Dragon Bowl

These bowls are perfect for anything, from no mai fan to cereal, and the tonal dragon motif goes with any table setting. Also Wing on Wo & Co. has been a fixture in NYC’s Chinatown since 1890!

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