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Masala cornbread, miso carrots: 11 Asian-inspired Thanksgiving side dishes

Asian American chefs recommend tom kha mashed potatoes, masala cornbread muffins and other side dishes that will take center stage.
Purple Sweet Potato Sliced Texture Background
Purple sweet potato slices.Oksana_Bondar / Getty Images/iStockphoto

No matter how you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year, you can put a twist on your traditional mashed potatoes and stuffing by swapping in one of these Asian and Asian-inspired side dishes. Try Japanese kabocha squash, masala cornbread muffins or any of these other delicious alternatives. They may be sides, but they’ll probably end up taking centerstage.

Garlic umami edamame mash

Garlic umami edamame mash.
Garlic umami edamame mash.Charles Chen

Charles Chen, a celebrity chef and TV host, created this lighter version of mashed potatoes that has a green pop of color and a savory mushroom flavor. “I was inspired to recreate flavors that I loved growing up in Taiwan,” he said. You can also roast the cauliflower instead of steaming it for an extra layer of flavor. Find ingredients like umami powder at Trader Joe’s or specialty food shops. Wasabi paste can be found at most grocery stores. Check out the recipe on Chen’s site.

Thai roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower & tom kha mashed potatoes

Los-Angeles based chef Vanda Asapahu uses Thai ingredients like Thai chili, fish sauce, limes, galangal, lemongrass, and makrut lime leaves when making traditional Thanksgiving food. Ingredients can be found at most grocers and you can swap in ginger for galangal and other peppers like serrano or jalapeno for Thai chili. This year, at Asapahu’s family-owned restaurant, Ayara Thai, you can order a Thanksgiving feast to-go that includes tom kha mashed potatoes, Thai-spiced turkey and fish sauce roasted Brussels sprouts. Check out her recipes on Thailand Insider.

Indian spiced paleo green bean casserole

San Francisco-based food blogger Shivangi Rao created a base for this spiced-up version of a fan favorite. It contains a rustic cream of mushroom soup infused with cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Rao then bakes tender green beans into the creamy soup and adds crispy fried onions on top for an addictive crunch. “I grew up eating traditional green bean casserole and always thought it lacked flavor,” Rao says. Find the recipe on her site Raody Recipes.

Chinese sticky rice

Truc Nguyen's family has run Vietnamese restaurant Truc Orient Express in the Berkshires, a mountainous region in Western Massachusetts, for 42 years. One of her fondest memories is her mother de-boning the turkey at Thanksgiving and stuffing it with sweet sticky rice, Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp from their hometown of Nha Trang. “The combination of flavors was the perfect way to celebrate my Vietnamese heritage and our adopted country, the U.S.,” she said. You can check out a recipe similar to Nguyen’s on the blog A Day in the Kitchen.

Curry puffs with lemon yogurt

New York-based chef Reggie Soang created these curry puffs as a riff on his grandmother's thousand layer pan-fried buns, which were made from her own pastry and filled with beef, pork or salted daikon. “My curry puffs are not as perfect as hers, but they remind me of childhood,” Soang said. “The tip to making a great curry puff is to be bold with seasoning. You almost need to overseason the fillings in order to compensate for the bland taste of puff pastry.” Other ingredients like curry powder and garam masala can be found at most grocery stores. Check out the recipe on Soang’s site.

Bhutta masala cornbread muffins

San Francisco-based food blogger Shivangi Rao compiles South Asian flavors in a grain-free cornbread for a tangy, sweet and spicy twist on the side. “In Mumbai, street vendors sell freshly grilled corn on the cob — bhutta — and cover it in chili, salt, butter, lime juice and cilantro,” she says. You can find ingredients like chaat masala at most Asian and specialty grocers. Check out the recipe on her site Raody Recipes.

Red miso glazed carrots

Red miso paste, which contains a higher concentration of soy beans than white miso, adds a bolder more savory flavor to a traditional carrot side dish. Red miso paste can be found in most grocers, stores like Target and Walmart and at Asian grocers. Check out the recipe at Food & Wine.

Candied purple yams

Instead of traditional yams, try using ube, purple potatoes that are native to the Philippines and a popular ingredient in many Filipino desserts. "Ube is less sweet and slightly more dense than traditional yams," said Elizabeth Chan, a Filipino Chinese American songwriter whose family owns Bubblicitea Cafe, a Filipino cafe and bakery in Albuquerque, and Blue Ribbon Kitchen, a Filipino Restaurant in Jersey City, New Jersey. Chan developed her own version of the dish and said it's special to her family because it represents her diverse heritage. "More importantly, the color is very nostalgic for all Filipinos and often used in sweet dishes for celebrations," she said. Find ube at many Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Asian grocery stores. Chan pointed to a recipe similar to her own on the Instructables cooking site but said she omits the sugar since the marshmallows are sweet enough.

8-ingredient rice

Fried rice with vegetables in a bowl
Fried rice with vegetables in a bowl.PavelKant / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Eight has long been considered a lucky number in China, associated with wealth and prosperity. Los Angeles-based Chef Tony Nguyen of Crustacean and Da Lat Rose restaurants, has an eight- ingredient rice that is a super simple side dish to whip up. While his ingredient is his new Drip sauce, a spicy chili sauce combining Calabrian and Southeast Asian chili peppers with a little California garlic and raw organic honey, You can replicate that at home with your favorite hot sauce. Check out the recipe on the Drip Sauce site.

Coconut grits

To meet his own family’s dietary restrictions, chef Bill Kim of Urban Belly restaurant in Chicago came up with these dairy-free, gluten-free grits as an alternative to cheesy Southern grits. Kim substitutes coconut milk for heavy cream and seasons the grits with caramelized onions, garlic and nuoc cham, with a little sherry vinegar to cut through the rich flavor. He shared his recipe with CBS Chicago.

Creamy mashed potato soup with dashi

Chef Shota Nakajima of Taku in Seattle created this soup recipe as a delicious and thrifty way of repurposing leftover mashed potatoes. You whisk buttery mashed potatoes into simmering dashi, which is a Japanese soup stock. Tailor the recipe to your liking, adding milk for a thicker soup or more dashi if you prefer a thinner consistency. Garnish it with soy sauce for added flavor. You can get dashi powder at your local Asian grocery store or substitute chicken broth.Check out the recipe on Food & Wine.

CLARIFICATION (Nov. 30, 2020, 5:15 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article omitted credit on a recipe for candied purple yams. The recipe is from Elizabeth Chan. The article has been updated.

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CLARIFICATION (Nov. 30, 2020, 5:15 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article omitted credit on a recipe for candied purple yams. The recipe is from Elizabeth Chan. The article has been updated.