Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Homemade Thanksgiving/Turkey Dinner in Korea

Here's the question:

Have you ever cooked an American Thanksgiving meal in Korea, turkey and all? My Western friends and I decided that we wanted to make a Thanksgiving dinner for our Korean friends, and I'm a little bit stumped about the turkey. This may well be purely a matter of this being my first time cooking a turkey and not knowing what I'm doing. I do have some questions about turkey in Korea, though.

1. Where is the best place to get a turkey? I might already know the answer to this. We might be able to get a turkey from someone one of us knows in the American military. I've heard that's the cheapest. But, if we go to CostCo, are we likely to find a fair deal for a turkey?

2. Once we actually get a turkey, will we be able to find a roasting pan in stores in Korea? Or would we be better off trying to borrow one from a church or other institution that might serve a Thanksgiving dinner? (Our dinner is on Friday, not Thursday).
I have never tried and I think it's great that you are, but Korea is not the easiest place to start learning how to make a proper American Thanksgiving dinner. My advice? Don't mess with it. Not only will it be extremely stressful, but I doubt that you'll find all the ingredients to do it well and, of course, the oven is another problem. If you don't have an oven in your apartment, you're setting yourself up for disaster.

You could go the Costco route (and probably find a big pan there as well), but I can't speak from experience. Two years ago (when I was searching), there were no turkeys to be found. That doesn't mean they're not there though as things might have changed, but again, finding the turkey is only the beginning.

In 2008, Kimchi Ice Cream said,

Apparently if you can get a Korean friend to call a turkey farm (assuming there's one near you--a farm, not a Korean friend, lol--there is one that's not too far from our university) you can ask a Korean friend to call for you and buy a turkey. The farmer will, for a fee, kill the turkey, de-feather it, and then deliver it to your place 

I doubt that you have time for this though, so if you want your Korean friends have a good meal, then I'd suggest taking advantage of 10 Magazine's list of places to get a good Thanksgiving dinner. Most of the places are reasonably priced, well-cooked and a lot of fun.
Now, you do have one more option: ordering a turkey/Thanksgiving dinner from a hotel. We did this last year and it was affordable, fed over 15 people and it was delivered to us at the time of our choosing. Many major hotels will be serving turkey and if they are not, they'll make it for the occasion. We customized our entire dinner and it was fantastic. If you want to eat at home, go this route.

I'm sure other people have many other routes they'll be going, so please share. As for me, well, I'm not a big turkey fan, so my wife and I will be enjoying a Brazilian Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Good luck though!


Unknown said...

For all the ten years I have lived in Busan, the Westin Chosun Hotel offered a full Thanksgiving meal, either cooked or uncooked, for a set price - obviously the cooked was more expensive - and prepared for pickup to take home. The same meal was offered in one of its dining rooms. A similar hotel in Seoul or other major city might offer a similar deal.

Lancity said...

nicedeli.com was selling whole turkeys and also sells turkey breast lunch meat. i have a bunch of meat and cheese waiting for me at home for tonight.

another obstacle that anybody hosting a thanksgiving dinner for koreans is likely to run into is, for lack of a more descriptive term, ingratitude. i've been a part of several efforts to make and share a thanksgiving dinner and they usually turn out poorly because once the food is in front of them the koreans generally balked at trying any of it despite their excitement before hand. i've done this with pretty much all age groups and in a couple of different cities.

it's worth a shot if you know the people really well, but i've had too many leftovers at this point to care to attempt again myself.

Unknown said...

Lancity: Not to dispute your story, I bought a turkey dinner with all the trimmings one year, and my wife's family literally dismantled the turkey. It worked out well, too, because everyone else ate the dark meat and left the white meat to me - and laughed at me for it! But, all did agree it was too expensive even for such a big bird.

Now my wife and I improvise each year with lamb or duck, and make various side dishes. Tradition can be stifling, and expats should remember holidays are about fellowship, not food.

Lancity said...

it's hard to focus on fellowship when all your hard work has gone totally to waste, or (in one case) sneezed all over.

it's cool that your in-laws are the good kind of involved. i know not everybody is going to have the kind of experience with this sort of thing that i've had, and it's definitely worth it if you know the people involved are the adventurous sort, but i'm done trying to cajole people to eat the stuff i spent hours making at their request. this year it's a turkey sandwich for me.

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