We were in Austin for Thanksgiving this year with no family around, and at first we didn’t know whether to escape on a family day trip, or to wait around to see if anyone would invite us to their home for Thanksgiving dinner…
But after meeting up with a long-lost friend who moved to Austin and realizing they didn’t have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving either, we decided on a Friendsgiving at our place, full of non-traditional Thanksgiving food, aka a Thanksgiving feast of Thai food. I started counting down the days.
Most meals I had with Dom’s family or friends in Thailand felt like Thanksgiving to me. We all sat around a huge table, flipped through a gigantic menu, pointing at different dishes that would taste amazing together, and started rattling off to the server a long list of Thai dishes. We all shared everything and as the food started to dwindle, that meant it was time to order more and more.
How I’ve missed having Thai meals like that since usually when I make weeknight dinner for us it’s just one or two different Thai dishes and that’s it. But Thanksgiving calls for a feast, and since traditional Thanksgiving food doesn’t mean much to Dom, and I prefer Thai food to it, we chose the Thai route with friends bringing mashed potatoes and desserts.
We spent Sunday afternoon during our kids’ nap time, brainstorming our menu and saying, “Oh! Oh! Let’s make this!” “Oh yeah and this too!” “And this!”, until we arrived at our final menu that I scrawled on my iPhone’s notes app:
Thai Thanksgiving Dinner
- Herb-Baked Lime Chili Thai cashews
- Nuea Daet Diao (Sun-dried Thai Beef Jerky with dried chili dipping sauce)
- Kaeng Juet Taohu Kai sap (Thai turkey dumpling tofu soup)
- Kung Paht Pong Kari (Stir-Fry Shrimp Yellow Thai Curry)
Salad and Veggie:
- Som Tum Phonlmai (Spicy Thai Fruit Salad)
- Phak Buung Fai Daeng (Stir-Fried Morning Glory)
- Kai Yang (Thai grilled Chicken with Tamarind Dipping Sauce)
- Mu Satay (Grilled Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber Relish)
- Thai Lime Tea
- Fun drinks from Asian store for kiddos
If you ever decide to have a Thai feast like we did, my number one tip for you is to plan and prep what you can ahead of time!
Unlike a lot of American dishes that you can just make ahead and heat up in the oven before company comes, Thai food usually needs to be eaten right after you make it for it to taste amazing. Except for Thai soups and Thai curries, which I actually think often taste even more flavorful the second day since the herbs and spices soak in even more.
- Go to Asian market and HEB to buy supplies
- Chop lots and lots of garlic
- Make Thai Lime Cashews
- Make peanut sauce for satay
- Make Thai lime tea
- Make cucumber relish syrup
- Make tamarind dipping sauce for Gai Yang
- Make dried chili dipping sauce for Thai Beef Jerky
- Cut and dry meat for jerky
- Make soup
- Cut and marinate meat for mu yang
- Marinate Kai yang
- Clean house and decorate!
- Make cucumber sauce
- Finish making jerky
- Make shrimp curry
- Make rice
- Make som tum fruit
- Make morning glory
- Dom grills and cuts fruit pretty
On the day of, of course my kiddos woke up early from their naps so I couldn’t finish everything on time, but some of our guests jumped right in and helped me make my last few dishes. We had every burner going, spatulas flying, oil bubbling, knives chopping, kids screaming and laughing and jumping on the couches nearby, it was the best kind of kickoff to a Thanksgiving meal.
We were going to have 12 people total, and didn’t have room at our tiny dining room table where four can sit comfortably and six is a squeeze, so of course we chose to eat Thai-style on the floor.
We had an extra carpet pad and wrapped it like a present in some butcher’s paper. Then we wrote each person’s name on their spot in gold Sharpie, and, “Give Thanks Always” in the center, added fall centerpieces and put pillows behind each person to lean on against the wall. I loved how cozy and Thai countryside feel it felt to all be on the floor eating, chatting and laughing together.
Around our table mat sat people from NC, Burma, Thailand and Mexico, most of whom had never met before. During our meal the fragrance of fried garlic, grilled Thai chicken, lime and cilantro lingered in the air. We shared reverent silence as we devoured the meal, gentle tears of empathy as we gave thanks for the beauty in the hardships, and laughter at the lengths we go to to get an insanely cheap TV during Thanksgiving Day Sales.
Even though we all didn’t even speak the same language, we still magically connected, and for a brief moment a thought ran through my mind that this is what a feast in heaven will look like one day.