HomeAsian AmericansAsian Americans blend cultural traditions during Thanksgiving through food

Asian Americans blend cultural traditions during Thanksgiving through food

Photo by Maksym Kozlenko via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

For many Asian American immigrants, their Thanksgiving traditions feature a unique blend of holiday customs from home and American traditions.

Immigrants such as the families of Michael and Meichih Kim, who co-own the restaurant Maum, have created their own traditions like eating KFC and combining Asian foods with turkey on Thanksgiving.

“It was really important to my dad that we eat together on Thanksgiving, because he was always working,” said Meichih to the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the other hand, her husband Michael’s parents always worked on Thanksgiving. After his grandmother ordered KFC on Thanksgiving, Michael decided to make Thanksgiving dinner himself with help from a box kit.

Nowadays, the couple hosts Friendsgiving celebrations with a turkey as its centerpiece, surrounded by various Korean and Taiwanese dishes. They encourage their friends to bring dishes from their own cultural backgrounds as well.

Gil Payumo, who co-owns Filipino Mexican eatery Señor Sisig, recalled that his elders used to tell him not to bring any Filipino food to their Thanksgiving potlucks.

“We felt pressured to make the meal American, since it’s an American holiday and we live in America and we wanted to fit in,” he said. “But over the last decade, we’ve been going back to our roots.”

Payumo’s family now holds a Thanksgiving kamayan feast, with stretches of Filipino food meant to be eaten by hand served on banana leaves.

The New York Times reported that in Seattle Chinatown restaurant Kau Kau BBQ Market and Restaurant, they apply traditional Chinese methods of cooking meat into cooking turkeys for Thanksgiving. Co-owner Richard Chang caps the amount of turkeys every year at 80 due to popular demand.

The annual tradition establishes a bond between Chang and his customers, some who have been regulars since the very beginning. For others, it is their first time ordering a Kau Kau turkey and the beginning of a new tradition.

“The American way can be dry,” Chang told the New York Times. “The Chinese way is moist.”

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