Look, there’s a lot to be said in favor of traditions — they’re comforting and time-honored and nice — but as we enter a holiday season that’s sort-of-but-not-entirely free from the shadow of COVID-19, there’s also something to be said for just doing and eating whatever the hell you want. Maybe this is the year to skip a big, fat, oven-roasted turkey in favor of a meaty main that’s a little out of the (bird) box.
Enter, chef Chris Yang of El Chino Grande and Hén-zhì, an itinerant Taiwanese pop-up he runs with his wife Marcelle. “I personally don't like turkey,” Yang says. “So this Thanksgiving meal is very similar to what I've done in the past, but essentially it's what I crave to eat when we have family get-togethers. My family is pretty untraditional when it comes to Thanksgiving.”
So instead of turkey, the star of Yang’s Thanksgiving meal kit is a pound of braised bone-in short ribs, which Yang says are loosely inspired by his grandmother’s recipe for Three Cup Chicken, a Taiwanese classic made with sesame oil, soy sauce, and mirin. But while his grandmother used to bathe chicken wings in the sweet-savory sauce, Yang is steeping hefty plates of bone-in ribs in a mixture of brown sugar, soy sauce, and mirin for a day and a half before searing them on a grill and then braising them for about four hours. The flavor profile ends up being somewhere in the same realm as his grandmother’s homey Three Cup Chicken wings, Yang says.
Aside from those sticky ribs, Yang’s Thanksgiving meal kit — which feeds at least two diners and costs $120 — also includes about a half rack of brown sugar smoked pork ribs (“basically chashu,” he says). Sides range from a market salad made with roasted sweet potatoes and yuzu vinaigrette to smoked local squash. The exact squash varieties will depend on what strikes Yang’s fancy when he hits the farmer’s market in the days before the holiday, but the preparation will be the same: he’ll brush the squash in chile oil, then smoke it over kiawe, a thorny species of mesquite tree that’s often used for smoking and grilling in Hawai’i. The kit also includes steamed short-grain rice from California’s own Koda Farms along with furikake for seasoning. And, for dessert, how about butter mochi made with candied yams and coconut cream?
Yang says the kit will definitely feed two people and some have said it was enough for a family of four — but he likes to under-promise and over-deliver. Everything will be pre-cooked, meaning all you have to do is heat it up in the oven. Orders are open on the Hén-zhì website until this Saturday, November 20 or until he sells out. Customers can either pick up their meal kit in Lafayette on Thanksgiving or have Yang deliver it on Wednesday, November 24.
Thanksgiving, a holiday derived from a diplomatic meeting of English colonists and members of the Wampanoag Peoples in 1621, falls on Thursday, November 25. San Francisco and the Bay Area occupy the traditional homelands of the Ohlone tribe.