Citizens, few things are as exciting to the globetrotting Leader of TFD Nation as the opportunity to sample street food in distant lands – even the most humble of dishes can turn out to be a gustatory powerhouse crackling with 1,000,000 volts of pure flavor!
This is one of them – I give you the beloved dish of Taiwanese street food: turkey rice!
Yes – TURKEY!
As noted in this lightly-edited excerpt from choochoocachew.com:
Turkey is not a popular source of meat in Taiwan and it’s not easy to find especially in the north. There are a few turkey farms down south and my grandparents used to raise turkeys. There aren’t a whole lot of dishes made with turkey, but there is one and one dish only that everybody knows- JiaYi turkey and rice.
JiaYi(嘉義,jia1yi4) is a county situated in southern Taiwan, I guess that’s where the turkeys are raised because for some reason turkey and rice has never been related to any other cities, and when people talk about the dish-even in another city- it’s always “Jiayi turkey and rice”. That’s the dish’s official name in Taiwan.
As further elucidated on itsmydish.com:
(In JiaYi) There is a water fountain roundabout (圓環噴水池) that is called “the holy ground of democracy.” During election time, candidates from different parties will all come to this area to have their campaign rallies (造勢晚會).
Unlike other regions in Taiwan, there are never conflicts and the crowd is friendly to each other. The atmosphere makes this area the most crowded place in Chiayi during election season, which is pretty much all the time!
One guy spotted the opportunity and come up with turkey rice, which is the original Taiwanese Stewed Pork Rice with turkey grease and tender turkey breast meat on top.
Because people like the turkey rice so much that they skipped the stew pork and just served turkey by itself. Soon, the fame of the turkey rice spread out like wildfire, and now you can see turkey rice (or some called it chicken rice if they substitute with regular chicken breast) at every corner of Taiwan.
This dish bears many similarities to the famed mainland Chinese dish known as Hainan Chicken Rice – but it has subtle but important differences that go beyond just substituting turkey for chicken! The condiments aren’t spicy, for one thing, and the flavor profile is also different.
Citizens, my version of the classic is based on a zero-compromise approach – this is simple food, and that means it is absolutely unforgiving if you use less than awesome ingredients or cut back on techniques to save time. The flavorful turkey stock is a key part of this recipe, so we will make our own from scratch and let it simmer for many hours to extract every last iota of flavor! To amp up the turkey flavor even more, we will cook the turkey breast *IN* turkey stock, made by combining turkey demiglace with water and seasonings. You can buy the demiglace here.
To garnish, we will use the classic Takuan Japanese pickles (Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese for many years, and there are Japanese ingredients that have become embedded in the local cuisine) – you can buy a high-quality version without the nasty fake yellow artificial color here. I like to add at least two other varieties of pickles as well – these are straight from Kyoto, Japan!
Typically garnished with fried shallots, I also like to use the turkey ‘cracklings’, made from the ground skin of the breast from which you render the all-important turkey fat that is the flavor base of the dish!
I know with 100% certainty that if you have ever tried turkey rice in Taiwan, mine will be even better! If you haven’t – prepare to become a turkey rice convert, Citizens, for a comforting and delicious meal!
Battle on – the Generalissimo