Korean Food for Thanksgiving!?
YES! Why NOT?? Above is a picture of our Thanksgiving feast with friends and their families from 2 years ago. For the last 10 years, we have been lucky and blessed to have been included as part of a “family”: a group of friends and their children who have been celebrating Thanksgiving together almost every year for their 25+ year friendship. Being a first generation immigrant and not having family close by, Thanksgiving usually was a quiet small family (of 3) event unless we traveled to my sisters’ (#1 and #2) families (which was always wonderful). So, having these local group of families to celebrate the holidays together has been such a blessing and we are always so grateful to them for adopting us. 😍
Anyway, in the picture you can see that we had Kimchi Tofu and Japchae mixed with the usual Turkey, stuffing, Caesar salad and brussel sprouts!
For many Korean Americans and anyone who loves Korean food, I know Thanksgiving food can mean it’s bland + bland. I remember many years ago, actually the first year we were married, we visited my brother’s home for Thanksgiving. The table was full of the usual fabulous Thanksgiving dishes prepared as a group effort by my sister-in-law and sisters. But after few bites into the dinner — someone commented,
“Hmm.. we need something….. hmm… OH! KIMCHI!!!”
“Nooo!!, Let’s not ruin such an elegantly prepared American Thanksgiving dinner with smelly Kimchi!” said I.. (I think)
“YESSSss…that Kimchi totally hit the spot! We needed something something spicy and fresh!!” said most everyone after. I think I kind of thought the same but didn’t want to admit it. HAHA…
We Koreans just can’t help it…we are addicted to Kimchi and we just have to eat it with everything.
Now unlike many Koreans, I actually LOVE a properly cooked Turkey and the usual trimmings. Much like how Korean New Year’s or Chuseok has special memories for me, Thanksgiving brings up the most wonderful and warm emotions. And even after I became an adult, I was lucky to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving at my older sister’s and brother’s home whether it was in the US or in Korea.
For a few years, it was all 7 of us but after that it was with whoever was at home at the time. Because even from about 5th grade, my older sisters and brother (couple years later) were away a lot from home attending colleges somewhere. Back then traveling was not something you did often. But no matter where we were living, in India, in Korea – my parents made sure we had a special family dinner, even though American Thanksgiving had no special meaning in the Korean calendar. However, Korean churches always reminded us to Thank God for another year full of his blessings and grace which was very true.
Let me now share some Korean recipes that will go wonderfully well with your very American Thanksgiving meal.
Best Korean or Korean Fusion Appetizer for Thanksgiving
Wanja Jeon or Kkaetnip Jeon (Korean beef patties and beef wrapped in Perilla Leaves) is a classic Korean dish that you can make as appetizer or even as a side dish. But I say it will be best as an app. Can be served cold so you can make ahead and serve with some soy dipping sauce.
Korean cocktail meatballs with Sweet Soy Glaze is a Korean Fusion dish that will be something different than your usual appetizer meatballs. Addition of tofu and kimchi makes this very flavorful while the sweet soy glaze makes it all work together.
Hobak Jeon (Pan-fried Zucchini) is one of our favorite everyday side dish but it will also be a great appetizer for any party whether it’s at your home or at someone else’s. It can be served as a vegetable side dish that can be made ahead.
Best Kimchi for Thanksgiving
Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi) is quite easy to make vegan kimchi (no fish sauce!) that will add a wonderful fresh crunchy Kimchi flavor with the perfect level of spicy punch to your Thanksgiving meal. Make ahead 4-5 days ahead for a perfect Kimchi.
Cabbage Kimchi (Yangbaechoo Kimchi) is another mild tasting Kimchi that will not try to take your Thanksgiving meal to another world.
Best Korean Salads for Thanksgiving
Easy Bok Choy Salad will be definitely milder and refreshing than kimchi but has a little more zing and spice than your common salad. Make the dressing ahead of time and toss close to dinner time.
My famous Cucumber Salad is a great option if you don’t want to fuss with a lot of different salad ingredients. The soy vinegar dressing with a hint of chili powder will add interesting touch to your dinner. It can also be tossed ahead of time and be served when ready.
Korean Fusion Side Dish for Thanksgiving
- Easy Brussel Sprouts with Kimchi and Pancetta could be your perfect side dish. Kimchi and bacon (or pancetta) is such a match made in heaven and pancetta and brussel sprouts go together so well also. So when you combine all 3 together, it is just really good. Please try this for a change this year!
One Pan Vegetarian Japchae – how can you not like Japchae with anything? This mild tasting glass noodle dish (this version is vegan) will always win over anyone whether you serve it as a side dish or appetizer. I also have a full Japchae version that includes beef if you want to go more traditional.
May you have a time full of blessings~
XOXO ❤️ 🦃