Hop Woo – Chinatown, Los Angeles, California
As the head of the of the Parker household I have a responsibility to my family to make sure the holidays go off without a hitch – maintaining that blasted, stupid furnace, keeping my foul-mouthed son Ralphie’s language in check and making sure we have a feast featuring a fat, juicy turkey. Ever since those sons-of-bitches Bumpuses let their mangy dogs run loose though my house, devouring the Christmas turkey, I came up with a great idea: since we ended up dining on duck (which we called “Chinese turkey”) at the Bo Ling Chop Suey Palace, why not save the trouble this Thanksgiving and have real Chinese turkey at Hop Woo. I thought our holiday duck might have inspired Chef Lupe Liang, but apparently it was through experimentation and adaptation of Mexican and Chinese recipes for duck since the traditional preparation didn’t work for the big bird. The turkey takes the better part of a day to prepare; it is first brined in a bath containing fried salt, sugar and star anise for 4 hours. The turkey is then parboiled briefly in boiling water, basted with a red vinegar and honey solution and fan dried prior to roasting. The bird is slow roasted hanging head-down (or at least where the head once was) from hooks so that it keeps juicy. Prior to serving, it is stuffed with rice, which absorbs the taste of the turkey from the broth inside.
Hop Woo’s Chinese turkey can stand alone as a major prize to grace any dinner table, but from the Thursday prior to Thanksgiving through Thanksgiving Day, you can also opt for a meal that feeds 10 (or a couple of the Bumpus’ hounds) featuring the whole turkey and other turkey-laden “side” dishes. If you have a kid like my Randy that requires a screwdriver and a plumber’s helper to get food in him, there’s enough variety that he’ll dig in even without showing him Mommy’s little piggy with the brown, crackly skin hanging from butchers’ hooks in the front window. For starters, there’s iceberg lettuce wraps with chopped turkey, water chestnuts, peppers and mushroom, and as long as we’re on the subject of lettuce, a turkey salad (like the Chinese chicken salad with a substitute bird) with a sesame dressing. The hot, spicy vermicelli noodle soup is chock full of big chunks of meat and will warm you up on a brisk November day better than that useless furnace ever could. The turkey also makes an appearance in a rich, hearty curry dish loaded with potatoes and carrots that tastes so good, you’ll want to use your rice to sop up the broth. I’m somewhat traditional and an Oldsmobile man, but their moo shu turkey may just get you to swear off pork and chicken. The battered and fried turkey with lemon sauce is light, crispy and full of flavor, and by the time you’re eating it you’ll have forgotten that you still have the roast turkey waiting in the wings. The hot, juicy slices of the roast turkey (still with its crispy skin intact) are presented with the stuffed rice and a brown sauce made from the liver, neck and giblets, which are previously ground and cooked down.
If you find yourself on Thanksgiving having to fix a flat or finding your prized Italian lamp shattered beyond repair, save yourself the hassle of having the additional worry about having to chase turkey thieves with a Red Ryder BB gun and get your Chinese turkey or family dinner at Hop Woo. You’ll be enjoying a spectacular and unique holiday dinner faster than you can say, “Notafinger!”
(with apologies to Jean Shepherd)