Article by Alex Zheng
No matter how well we’ve adjusted to living Xi’an, Christmas is the one time of year where all of our hearts and thoughts wander back home. Some of us are lucky enough to go home, while others have responsibilities that keep us here through the holidays. For those of us that are staying, don’t worry. We can still have a great Christmas dinner in China.
The easiest way to shop for your Christmas dinner is to have a really nice Chinese friend who’s patient enough to help you navigate through Taobao.com. You can order your turkey, your cranberry sauce, your instant stuffing and your Christmas decorations here. This is the cheapest and quickest way to buy things–you just have to be sure that someone is home to receive the turkey when it arrives.
If Taobao isn’t an option for you then you need to do some running around. You can buy your turkey at Metro but this is subject to availability. Most people snatch up their turkeys two or three days before Christmas so you’re best off having a large freezer and buying your bird a week in advance. While you’re here you can also grab a whole ham, canned cranberry sauce, potatoes, all-purpose flour, bacon, butter, cream, a meat thermometer, and Captain Morgan’s spiced rum. If you don’t want to buy from Metro, your other choice is to go down to xiyilu(西一路), and find the only T-intersection there and head up to the third floor of that building. The meat importer there will take your order but you will have to bargain hard, as there will be a “foreigner tax” on anything you buy there. Furthermore, you can order a turkey from any of the stores on the street-front and they will most likely buy from the same meat importer on the third floor and may give you a better price.
After going to xiyilu, you can find one of the farmer’s markets in Xi’an to buy any of the rarer vegetables you may need. A good market, zhuqueshichang (朱雀市场), can be found at the corner of zhangbalu (丈八路)and zhuquedajie(朱雀大街). Here you can find brussel sprouts, chestnuts, yams and white mushrooms. They also have common vegetables here so you can just buy everything you need.
For Christmas decorations, you want to go to either the basement level of danniershangcheng (丹尼尔商城) or the third floor of qinggongshichang (轻工市场). If you don’t want to travel so far and are okay with paying a heavy markup, then head to Metro or any of the supermarkets.
If you can’t find an oven, you can buy a really large 42-liter tabletop oven for 250-400 RMB. It can house a small turkey, but keep in mind that you’ll probably need an electrician to come in and change your outlet to a higher amperage. If that doesn’t work, you can still use an outdoor barbecue but you’ll have to spatchcock your turkey. The advantage of spatchcocked turkey is that it’ll cook way faster, have crispier skin and you’ll also have turkey bones with which to make turkey soup and turkey gravy. The disadvantage of spatchcocked turkey is that most people don’t know how to do it and you also won’t have a turkey wishbone to break. I highly recommend a spatchcock turkey. The recipe is included with this article.
If this is really too much work then just head to one of the many restaurants around Xi’an selling turkey dinners. After all, Christmas is about celebrating the holidays with our loved ones and there really is no reason to let the meal spoil a good time.
Alex is a culinary badass and owner of Caprice, who knows everything about food (and the stuff he doesn’t know is probably about Irish food so it’s not worth knowing). For more info, recipes, or a great chat about food, he can be reached at Alexander.Zheng@capricexian.com