Whenever I eat a Thanksgiving dinner, I’m always reminded of what lazy cooks Americans are compared to Asians…
My parent’s dinner parties were legendary. My mom had a repertoire of “guest dishes,” impressive show-stoppers that were far too complicated to make for everyday. Americans think a well-balanced meal should have a main meat dish, a starch, a couple of vegetables; Chinese instead wouldn’t be caught dead serving guests any meal that didn’t have all of the following: 4 cold dishes, a poultry dish, a pork or beef dish, a seafood dish, a fish, a tofu dish, a green vegetable, rice or noodles, finished by a soup.
I remember mini stuffed-omelette dumplings stewed with tigerlilies and mu-er (black tree fungus), short ribs steamed with flavored rice powder, minced chicken as soft as tofu... My favorite though was always the steamed duck-sticky rice.
First the duck was salt-and-spice rubbed, steamed, de-boned, and skinned keeping the skin intact. Then the sticky rice filling had to be prepared: sweet rice soaked then steamed, then completely cooled; then the stir-frying of a variety of ingredients to be mixed in with the rice -- green onion, Chinese sausage and shitake mushrooms diced into teeny gems, dried brine shrimp, soy, wine, etc. The idea was eight treasures, eight ingredients.
The duck was re-assembled boneless, skin side out, in a bowl, and the sticky rice mixture stuffed in the middle. Then the whole bowl was steamed for a few more hours – the fat from the skin and meat infusing the rice with even more flavor. When ready to serve, the whole bowl was flipped over onto a plate – gleaming brown duck skin, layers of meat, the jewel-studded treasure rice hidden inside.