Family Side Dish Contributions to Thanksgiving Makes the Meal

The side dishes are often what make each family’s Thanksgiving meal unique. What became one of the signature dishes at my family table came from my grandma: stir-fry. Yep. Stir-fry. For Thanksgiving.

I’d like to think of it as this grand way we incorporated our Japanese heritage into the meal, but I think it started because one of my cousins really didn’t like turkey. And in my grandma’s eyes, there is something very wrong if you’re not eating.

Eventually my cousin became less of a picky eater, but she always brought it. The rare few times she couldn’t make it, dinner just seemed a little off. Having that piece of family and culture at the table really helped brand it as MY family’s dinner. Other people I’ve talked to say the same: one of the local baristas told me that her mother, who hails from England, makes food from the British Isles, such as Yorkshire pudding.

I’d love to hear from any of you readers about the side dishes unique to your table. Leave a comment below or just e-mail me at I’ll compile them and put them in a new post.

Oh, and back to the stir-fry: I asked my grandma for a recipe, but she said she doesn’t use recipes, just mixes things up and it tastes different every time. The best I can share is to use about one part snow peas to one part thick-sliced mushroom, a little shrimp, a little salt, a little pepper and a touch of dashi (you can buy it at Central Market and some other Asian food markets around the county). Fry it in a hot pan, and serve.