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.
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.