Does Vietnam Have Pink Turkeys?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and about this time every year, while I start prepping my menu for Thanksgiving dinner, a vision of a pink turkey comes into my head. Not pink as in raw, but pink like “only real men can wear a pink shirt like that” pink.

A little history….my parents came over as refugees from Vietnam and tried to assimilate us the best that they could into American society. God Bless their hearts, this even meant trying to give us a Thanksgiving dinner the only way that they knew how and with flavors that they were familiar with.

The menu consisted of instant mashed potatoes, brown gravy made from the powder stuff in a pouch, canned corn, scalloped potatoes from the box, cranberry sauce from the jar, and (wait for it….) a roasted pink turkey.

You know that pink colored pork that you can get in banh mi or banh bao? It’s marinated in a xa xiu or char siu marinade. Yes, my parents marinated our turkey in char siu. I can see it in my head now. It is laying in one of those black aluminum roasting pans with white speckles all over it and waiting to be Asian-ized.

Asian parents are very particular about making sure that meat is always cooked well done, so this bird had no chance. They were going to cook the living daylights out of it, and so they figured that 5 hours of roasting would suffice. At least the poor thing got basted every 30 minutes.

As my siblings and I grew up, we took the burden of cooking Thanksgiving off my parents’ hands and with the thanks of magazines, cookbooks, and internet, we’ve come a quite far from that pink turkey.

My husband and I live far from the parents now, so I cook Thanksgiving dinner for friends who we see as family. The menu consists of all-American comfort foods like sausage and cornbread stuffing, Martha Stewart’s mac & cheese, green bean casserole, mashed taters, and a beautiful roast turkey in which I use Alton Brown’s brining method. Everything is made from scratch, even the gravy, but I still find instant mashed potatoes, brown gravy, and canned corn so comforting. The old adage is so true; you appreciate your parents so much more as you grow up.

I wonder what our guests would think if I served them a pink turkey this year.

Written by Linda Tran,
Foodie & EatinAsian Enthusiast