Recipe for Taiwanese Turkey Rice
Some call it “turkey rice”, some people even say it is just “turkey rice”, as its name implies. Regardless of which name you find soothing; this is a must-try if you ever find yourself in Chiayi County in southwest Taiwan. The hearty, homey dish has gained prominence across the entire island for its beautiful blend of fragrant ingredients.
It is the lighter-tasting counterpart to heavier, stronger-flavored cuisine; in other words, it is the yin to many Taiwanese dishes’ fierce yang. The dish was originally made with turkey meat, which was novel at the time and helped make it popular. Nowadays, many roadside stands and home cooks make it with chicken.
Turkey versus chicken
Turkeys are not as readily available as chickens in both Taiwan and the United States, so they have been substituted for chickens. However, in the U.S., they are plentiful in late November, as is their leftover meat. Naturally, I wanted to find out if I could make turkey rice with the leftover turkey meat from the Thanksgiving turkey. When making this dish in Taiwan, the meat (whether chicken or turkey) is usually steamed. Could you use roasted turkey instead? I was wondering if I tried it with two turkey thighs, one steamed and the other roasted. Hey, I am not trying to figure this out by cooking two whole turkeys.
It’s crucial to set aside the turkey drippings. This serves as the foundation for the reduction sauce, which is then lavishly poured over each bowl of turkey rice after being boiled in spices and fried shallots. It gives it that lip-smacking flavour and adds a lovely shine to the pale turkey meat. If you do not have any turkey dripping left, you can substitute with Schmaltz (this is rendered chicken or goose fat).
I also discovered that this dish works just fine with leftover roasted turkey. However, there was a slight difference between using steamed turkey and roasted turkey for this dish. The steamed turkey had a slightly more flexible texture and was overall moister, but the roasted flesh had a more intense turkey flavour and a crimson colour. Nevertheless, each was remarkable in its way.
- 450 g (1 pound) shredded leftover turkey or 900 g (2 lbs) bone-in turkey breasts or drumsticks
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper, divided
- 60ml vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 5ml Soy sauce
- 2 shallots, shaved on a mandoline (thinly sliced)
- 7g Sichuan peppercorns
- 120ml water
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- White rice, cooked
- If you’re starting with a fresh turkey breast or drumstick: Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper and salt on the turkey. Place a steamer rack inside a sizable pot with a lid, such as a Dutch oven. Two cups (475 ml) of water should be added to the saucepan. Put the turkey on a plate that will fit inside the pot and will rest on the steamer rack. (The turkey shouldn’t be positioned on a rack with holes to preserve the turkey drippings.) Water is brought to a boil, then the heat is turned down to a simmer, and the pot is covered. The turkey should be steam-cooked for about 30 minutes, or until it achieves an internal temperature of 180°F (82°C) close to the bone. Allow it to cool. Set aside the turkey stock.
- If using leftover turkey: Start by preheating the oven to 350°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread the turkey evenly, drizzle with stock, and cover with foil. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until well heated.
- Remove the bones and skin from the turkey after it has cooled, then shred the meat into bite-sized pieces by hand.
- In a small pot, heat the vegetable oil until it shimmers over medium-high heat. Shallots are added, and they are cooked for about three minutes while being stirred. Right away, transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve the cooking oil.
- Combine the saved juices and drippings from the steamed turkey with 1/2 cup (120ml) of the shallot frying oil. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and white pepper, along with the water, sugar, soy sauce, and Sichuan peppercorns. Save the remaining shallots for garnish and add half of them now. Sugar will dissolve when the mixture is whisked over medium heat. Bring to a medium boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is reduced by half. Remove the sauce’s solids by straining them.
- To serve, place a pile of shredded turkey flesh on top of each serving dish of rice. Place some sauce in each bowl. Then garnish with fried shallots and cilantro to complete the dish.