Hummingbird High's Asian-Style Thanksgiving

November 28, 2014

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Thanksgiving in my household is a very non-traditional affair — for the last three years, Erlend and I have roasted a duck in place of the traditional turkey and have had varying sides and guests as an accompaniment every year. Since neither of our families celebrate Thanksgiving, we've been having a lot of fun working out our own traditions and customs.

And so this year was more thematic than previous years — I decided that our dinner was going to be primarily Asian-influenced, but with an homage to traditional Thanksgiving flavors. The menu was centered around a roasted beer duck recipe adapted from the crazy-talented Mandy of one of my favorite food blogs, Lady and Pups. Erlend and I decided to roast our duck using none other than Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, because what says America besides some bald eagles and a can of PBR?


Accompanying the duck was a garlic butter and scallion cornbread drizzled with garlic infused honey— now, I actually did not make the cornbread from scratch and instead used a box of Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Cornbread baking mix instead. Although I love baking from scratch (no duh), Erlend and I had made a deal that he would deal with the duck (a four-hour affair, including prep the day before) and I would make ALL the sides and desserts. And of course, I overcommitted and agreed to making three sides... so using a box mix in the end saved me a lot of time and stress. Fleishmann's mix was super easy and flexible, allowing me to incorporate my mix-ins without any issues — with my addition of fresh garlic and scallions, the cornbread went well with our Asian dishes and was still traditional enough to make it our meal feel more Thanksgiving-y.

Now, let's talk about the sides. Although I live about four blocks away from the original Pok Pok (you know, the super-famous Thai restaurant that's been in all those articles and has a Michelin-starred outpost in Brooklyn, New York) in Southeast Portland, I still can't get enough of it. I purchased the Pok Pok cookbook the moment it came out last year, but honestly, flipping through it left me intimidated — almost all the recipes require a lot of prep time and treks to Asian supermarkets in the suburbs.

But Thanksgiving is the perfect time to throw yourself headfirst into time-consuming culinary endeavors, so I picked two stir-fries from the cookbook to make. The first was Phak Buung Fai Daeng, which was a stir-fry of water spinach (perhaps more commonly known by its Chinese name, Ong Choy, or kangkong in my native country of the Philippines), fish sauce and oyster sauce. It's one of my favorite dishes at Pok Pok, but admittedly a bit of a pain to make at home because water spinach leaves are so friggin' hard to find, not to mention large and unwieldy and take up a lot of space in your fridge once you do find them. If you do manage to find the leaves somewhere (I found them by looking for greens with long, hollow stems), they're worth trying for their mild, leafy flavor that then soaks up the sauces they're paired with quite wonderfully.

The second stirfry was perhaps the more seasonal and festive: Phat Fak Thawng, or, a Northern Thai-style stirfry made from seasonal squash mixed with Thai chili, shrimp paste and lots of garlic and fried shallots:

I used two of my favorite types of squashes in the stirfry: butternut squash and delicata squash. They cooked at different rates, and the butternut squash softened up faster than the delicata. The stirfry ended up having a really awesome texture because of this — the butternut's soft, creamy texture contrasting with the delicata, which still retained a slight snap. As a matter of fact, the whole dish was kind of a study of opposites: the sweetness of the squashes contrasted with the umami of the paste, and the stirfry caramelized and melded all their flavors together. This was honestly one of the best vegetable recipes I'd tried in some time, and worth the time it took to source shrimp paste. 

And now, dessert.

For dessert, I had this crazy idea to make pumpkin and coconut milk Chinese egg tarts. When I first ran this idea by one of my Chinese friends, she looked at me like I had just told her that I was planning on committing a crime. Admittedly, the components of this recipe — pre-made boxed puff pastry (sorry guys, I wasn't making puff pastry from scratch this time around — I'm still scarred from the time I did it for these palmiers and that took like the entire friggin' weekend), pumpkin puree, coconut milk and sugar — are pretty far from what traditionally goes into legit Chinese egg tarts. 

But can I tell you guys a secret? 

When I pulled these out of the oven and took a bite out of the oh-so-warm and oh-so-fresh pastry, they were everything I'd always hoped Chinese egg tarts would be. As a kid, I had always been so disappointed by the fact that traditional Chinese egg tarts weren't more flavorful and sweet, despite their sunny and inviting appearance. But the pumpkin and coconut milk in these tarts gives them the flavor and sweetness I always desired, all without having it be too overly-sweet or sickeningly so. Although the tarts are best when they are still warm from the oven, Erlend and I still managed to finish off about ten each at room temperature wish that we had more. 

So, a recap of my Asian-style Thanksgiving menu:
  • Roasted PBR Beer Duck (recipe from Lady & Pups)
  • Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Cornbread with Added Scallions, Garlic and Honey Butter
  • Phak Buung Fai Daeng; or Stir-Fried Water Spinach (recipe from the Pok Pok cookbook, available after the jump)
  • Phat Fak Thawng; or Northern Thai-Style Stir-Fried Squash (recipe adapted from from the Pok Pok cookbook and available after the jump)
  • Pumpkin and Coconut Milk Chinese Egg Tarts (recipe after the jump)

Happy Thanksgiving!!! Feel free to share your Thanksgiving menus in the comments below.



For the Stir-Fried Water Spinach (Phak Buung Fai Daeng)
(makes one side, enough for 2 to 3 people)

Special Equipment:

  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 11 grams peeled garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly crushed with the flat of your knife
  • 6 ounces water spinach leaves and thin stems (select stems that are no more than 1/4 inch thick), cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 3 Thai chilis
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock

  1. Combine the oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl and stir well.
  2. Heat a wok over very high heat, add the oil, and swirl it in the wok to coat the sides. When it begins to smoke lightly, add the garlic. Take the wok off the heat once the garlic has been added and let the garlic sizzle, stirring often, until it turns a light golden brown (about 30 seconds). 
  3. Put the wok back on the heat and add the water spinach, stirring until the leaves begin to wilt, about 15 seconds. Add the oyster sauce mixture and the chilis. Stir-fry, constantly stirring, scooping and flipping the ingredients, until the leaves have fully wilted (about 45 seconds).
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of the stock and stir-fry until the stems are just tender with a slight crunch, about 45 seconds more. You should end up with about 1/4 cup of liquid in the wok with the water spinach. If the liquid looks like it will reduce to less than that, gradually add more stock as you stir fry.
  5. Transfer the water spinach and sauce to a plate in a low mound and serve immediately.


For the Northern Thai-Style Stir-Fried Squash (Phat Fak Thawng)
(makes one side, enough for 2 to 3 people)

Special Equipment:

  • 7 grams Thai chilis (use more or less depending on how spicy you want it to be)
  • 6 grams garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  • 5 grams peeled shallots, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • 5 ounces unpeeled delicata squash, unseeded
  • 5 ounces butternut squash, peeled and unseeded
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fried shallots

  1. First, make a paste from the chilis, garlic, shallots and shrimp paste. Pound the chilis to a coarse paste in a granite mortar, about 20 seconds. Add the garlic and pound until it breaks down and you can only see small bits of garlic, about 30 seconds, then do the same with the shallots. Add the shrimp paste and pound until it's just incorporated, about 10 seconds. Don't be alarmed if the paste isn't smooth — that's what we want here. The paste should still be fairly coarse, and you should have around 1 tablespoons worth of paste.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a violent boil and add the prepared squash for 20 seconds, before draining it well using a colander.
  3. Heat a wok over medium heat, add the oil, and swirl it around the wok to coat the sides and bottom of the wok evenly. When the oil is hot, add all oft he paste and take the wok off the heat, cooking and stirring the paste constantly until it is fragrant but not colored, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Be careful not to inhale the paste — pounded chiles plus heat equals a massive coughing fit. This tip is in the cookbook, and I happened to me as well since I was the idiot who decided to see what would happen if I actually sniffed the paste.
  4. Put the wok back on the heat, turn the heat to high, and add the squash Stir-fry, constantly stirring, scooping and flipping the ingredients for a minute or so to coat the squash and let the paste infuse it. Add the stock, sugar and salt, and continue to stir fry until the squash is tender but not mushy or falling apart, around 3 to 5 minutes. Every 30 seconds or so, consider adding a splash of water to keep the ingredients moist. Once the squash is ready, its outside surfaces should take on a caramelized appearance and there should be no liquid left in the wok.
  5. Transfer the squash to a plate, sprinkle on the fried shallots, and serve immediately.

For the Pumpkin and Coconut Chinese Egg Tarts:
(makes around 20 three-inch egg tarts)

Special Equipment:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 sheets (or one box pre-made) puff pastry, thawed and ready to be worked with

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 (F) and prepare your egg tart molds by spraying generously with cooking spray.
  2. First, make the filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 large egg yolks, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon until fully incorporated — the mixture should be a bright yellow color. Set aside while you prepare the tart crusts.
  3. Roll out your puff pastry sheet onto a well-floured surface and use your 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to stamp out 20 puff pastry circles. Use your hands to gently press the rounds into the egg tart molds by firmly pressing on the bottom and the sides of the molds — but be careful not to overstretch! The puff pastry circles won't cover the molds entirely, and that's okay. Use a fork to poke holes at the bottoms and sides of the puff pastry. Place each puff-pastry lined egg mold on a large baking sheet.
  4. Carefully pour the filling into each puff pastry-lined egg molds, filling each to about 80% full. Transfer the egg tarts into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the crust and filling are both puffed. At first the filling will look like it's too puffy and dry, but the center of each egg tart should have a custard/flan-like texture. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes, before serving immediately — the egg tarts are best when served warm and only remain fresh for a few hours before they turn soggy and stale.


  1. AMAZING! A job well done as far as I'm concerned :)

  2. Pumpkin. And coconut. Egg tarts. !!!!! I love you.

    1. Yesss, come back to PDX and I will make you so many of these you don't even know.

  3. YESSSSSSSSS I was so sosososo hoping you were going to share the egg tart recipe!!!! AHH I am in heaven right now. Also, omg I am SO with you on traditional egg tarts. I always wished they'd be sweeter as a kid! The idea of a sweeter version like the one you've made is a dream come true. That stirfry sounds like perfection too! This is amazing. Happy Thanksgiving, friend :)

    1. so glad i'm not alone in my thinking that traditional egg tarts should be sweeter! i know this recipe isn't really authentic or anything, but this is totally what i've wished egg tarts would taste like for basically my whole life lol

  4. This post is awesome. Can I use some reishi powder in Pumpkin and Coconut Chinese Egg Tarts? Because I like reishi powder with pumkin.

    1. hmm.. reishi powder is kinda bitter. i thought it was a medicinal herb...

  5. This is such an awesome idea Michelle!!!! Love!!!


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