Last week, I decided that since I missed Thanksgiving being in Beijing last year, I was going to make up for it with an amazing dinner this year, and invite all my Chinese friends to experience it. The party ended being made up of half Chinese people, half foreigners, which was pretty cool. We had a huge turkey, which I admit we bought pre-cooked. Partly because I have no oven in my apartment, and partly because I feel like only moms can pull off cooking a really great turkey. One tip would be to try to find a friend with an oven, so that you can have as many homemade dishes as possible. My friend was going to make improvised candied yams. What does that mean? Basically all around Beijing are vendors selling baked yams, usually about 4RMB each. They’re fresh when you buy them, so all you have to do is chop them up, put them in a dish, put brown sugar and marshmallows on top, and roast the marshmallows with a torch. Genius, right?
It was an interesting dinner, in the sense that we had both traditional and non-traditional foods. While there was turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, there was also sushi, spicy duck neck and lotus root (my favorites!), and a version of Mexican 7-layer dip. One of the things I love about living abroad is taking customs from home, sharing them with friends overseas, and creating entirely new traditions and memories.
Most of my American friends were surprised to hear that I celebrated Thanksgiving in Beijing. If they were true friends, they would’ve sent me a turkey through the mail. But I’m over it. Anyhow, considering the number of expats living in Beijing (expats: also known as expatriates, or foreigners living in another country. Not the formal definition.), it somehow over the years created a new market for all the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Not only can you reserve a table at countless restaurants around Beijing to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal cooked for you by a chef (not as good as eating at home, in my opinion), you can also choose to buy either pre-cooked or frozen turkeys and find ingredients to make the traditional side dishes. Here is a link to this year’s Thanksgiving dinners around the city, as well as places you can get take-out: The Full Guide to Thanksgiving in Beijing 2010.
Do you have any stories of celebrating holidays from home overseas? What traditions did you keep and what new ones did you create? Have you ever had to improvise a dish to make it as close to the real thing as possible?