After my family fled Vietnam in 1975 and settled in California, we took in American holidays with gusto. My sisters and I studied recipes in cookbooks, magazines, and newspapers, trying to understand our new situation. My frugal mother clipped coupons and roasted free turkeys for years. One Thanksgiving, she admitted that she wasn’t fond of its dryish meat. Uh-oh, we were trying to fit in as best we could, despite the fish sauce vapors in our kitchen and my dad harvesting fresh banana leaves from the front yard with a machete.
To have Thanksgiving without turkey seemed un-American at the time. But mom had had enough. She instead roasted big chickens stuffed with sticky rice seasoned by cognac, shiitake mushroom, thyme and butter (see the recipe in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, the rice chapter). Roasted chestnuts with butter and cilantro was her go-to side.