Hosting two Thanksgivings in Japan taught me to love the holiday and its food again. My friends are amazing cooks, and the sheer sense of community, of getting together to remake a tradition in our own way really made the holiday feel special.
Last year, I did a recipe-roundup of our meal. This year, I’d like to offer more recipes and suggestions for making Thanksgiving special in Japan or wherever you are.
Recipes marked with an asterisk indicate that the recipe contains ingredients that may be unavailable in a standard Japanese grocery store but are available at import stores and gourmet stores. (And there’s notes, as always, either on the recipe page or by the title if it’s off-site.)
Lupicia is one of the Japanese companies that has really embraced Halloween marketing and does it incredibly well.
Curry nabe is combination of two of Japan’s great comfort foods: curry-rice (karê raisu, カレーライス) and nabe (鍋). Curry-rice is a Japanized version of Indian curries via Britain: served with rice, this dish is a thick, brown sauce, more sweet than spicy, combined with onions, carrots, potatoes, and chicken or beef, which are sauteed before boiling in the sauce. If mac ‘n’ cheese and spaghetti are the epitome of basic American home cooking, curry-rice tops Japan’s list.
Most curry roux in Japan contain meat extracts (beef, pork, or fish are the most common). I am found of Sokensha‘s vegan* curry “flake type” roux (植物素材の本格カレー), which is sold in health-food stores like Noppo-kun but can also be ordered online. I like the “spicy” one (辛口), even though it’s not all that spicy. This “Curry for Vegetarians” by Sakurai is also vegan, though I haven’t tried it. (Edit: Haiku Girl recommends S&B’s exported Torokeru (とろける) curry roux blocks, but the domestic varieties sold in Japan appear to contain chicken or beef bouillon [ブイヨン].)
Then, of course, is the staple of Japanese winter cuisine: nabe, from nabemono, which refers to foods cooked in a (clay) pot. Nabe, like curry-rice, is completely adaptable to taste: use whatever tofu, vegetables, and/or meat you like and boil them in a broth of your choice. It’s like non-committal soup, and it’s great for casual dinner parties. You can purchase broth in a variety of flavors from soymilk to kimchi at any grocery store, but I prefer to make my own, and it’s really quite simple. (How did you guess?)
One last(?) squash purée recipe for the season!
I live in a country where the only cold cereals available at regular grocery stores (Tokyo Metro, you don’t count) are frosted flakes and cocoa puffs.* As a result, I’ve learned to make a variety of breakfast foods. I’m actually not sure how I only ended up with one muffin recipe on the blog onsidering the frequency with which we eat them at home. Muffins are the ideal food for the Japanese kitchen: their size means they cook through easily, unlike some quick breads; silicone muffin cups are easy to find; and the infinite variations you can make means you can adapt them to whatever flours (including gluten-free), milk, or seasonal fruit you can find in your area. Plus, they’re just fun to eat.
“I’m going to spatchcock the turkey.” “Excuse me?”
“If I spatchcock the turkey–WHY ARE YOU BLUSHING?”
“So, I’ve decided to spatchcock the turkey.” “Is that some sort of fandom thing about Benedict Cumberbatch?”
Despite its unfortunate name, spatchcocking is simply a way of butterflying a turkey so it will cook faster; it does not, in fact, refer to varsity-level S&M practices. (For that, please refer to Dan Savage’s column.)
(If reading about disassembling a deceased avian upsets you, read no further!)
On my first Thanksgiving in Japan as an exchange student, I had cold tofu for lunch and felt exceptionally sad. After two years of not celebrating the holiday while I was in rural Japan, I decided to host a Thanksgiving potluck for my friends last year, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Everyone’s favorite dishes–even ones I really disliked as a child, like green bean casserole–were exceptionally good. The atmosphere was good, too–everyone seemed really excited to be there and to share their dish; plus, there was no weird gender segregation in the kitchen!
Kabocha-Apple Whole-Wheat Turnovers
If you’re living in Japan, making your favorite holiday dishes can be somewhat difficult. Maybe there aren’t fresh green beans in late November at your store; maybe your moven is too small for a turkey. I’ve gathered up some of my recipes (and some from other blogs) that would work well for your fall/winter holiday parties below.
Finally, let me take the opportunity to express how thankful I am for all of you. Whether you’re a commenter, a twitter friend, or someone who has actually been in my kitchen, your support keeps me going on days when I’m down and out Darwin-style. You all push me to write more and try harder. So thank you. Really, truly.
On the themes of both autumn and non-chickpea hummus-adjacent spreads, I present kabocha hummus, one of the many fine uses for kabocha purée. As I stated in my baba ghanoush recipe, chickpeas/garbanzo beans (Japanese: hiyokomame, ひよこ豆) are relatively expensive in Japan, so I’ve been trying to less expensive chickpea alternatives. If chickpeas are cheap where you live, consider this recipe an interesting seasonal twist on a classic.
Thanks to Jessica Goodfellow of Axis of Abraxis and Ashley of Surviving in Japan for featuring my kabocha purée recipe on their sites!
Kabocha daifuku at the Don Don Matsuri in Komatsu
This is a bit ぎりぎり since Halloween is right around the corner, but if you are in Kanazawa or will be there this weekend for Halloween festivities, be sure to try the pumpkin dorayaki at Koshiyama Kanseido.
If every Japan food blogger is required by law to cover okonomiyaki (twice), then every food blogger in the US and Canada is required to offer a homemade version of Starbucks pumpkin spice latte.
The most popular variety has pumpkin purée rather than syrup mixed into it. Whether you live in Japan or the US, you don’t have to worrying about buying canned pumpkin before the Thanksgiving hoarders get to it or even stocking up on the orange pumpkins that seem to disappear on November 1 to make your own purée. Where there is squash, there can be “pumpkin” spice latte. No import store required.