The Multicultural Table: Tandoori Turkey, Leche Flan

By Ismael Syed

My father Danyal grew up with four siblings in Pakistan and my mother Olivia with nine in the Philippines, and as I grew older, I realized that I was born to a family of great cooks.

Half-Filipino, half-Pakistani, I get to taste different twists on Thanksgiving, depending on which side of the family hosts the dinner. Turkey, candied yams and sweet potato pie are paired with curry chicken, lamb or maybe some egg noodles and white rice. Each family member brings a different dessert, so along with ice cream and pie we have zurda, a Pakistani dish consisting of sweet yellow rice and, usually, coconut, or leche flan, a custard made in the Philippines.

With numerous aunts, uncles and cousins coming from each side of the family, we prepare enough food for more than 50 people. No matter which side is hosting, no one leaves hungry.

I like that Thanksgiving is a universal holiday. My dad’s family is Muslim, my mom’s side isn’t, so it’s good to have a holiday with something for everyone.

For my dad’s side of the family, Thanksgiving is like a big meeting. Whichever family hosts gets the duty of preparing the massive banquet. And we always wait to serve the food until everyone is accounted for, no matter how bad the traffic. On my mom’s side, we rotate location as well, except that everyone pitches in to make the dinner.

What a holiday! The food is unrivaled, the bond is strong, the memories linger. This year, a new tradition may form: I’m spending Thanksgiving with my sisters, rather than at the family gathering, for the first time.

Danyal Syed’s Tandoori Turkey:

  • 15 lbs. (or less) turkey
  • 1 box Shan tandoori mix, available at Indian markets
  • 2 limes
  • &fract12; cup olive oil
  • 2 cups of plain yogurt
  • 3 onions, sliced


  1. Cut the turkey into small pieces, wash and drain (unless you buy your turkey from a butcher, in which case, as him to cut it).
  2. Mix yogurt, tandoori mix, oil, and lime juice in a container.
  3. Slather the turkey with the mixture and marinate at least overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350.
  5. Roast turkey for 1½ to 2 hours, until tender and well browned.
  6. Serve with sliced onions.

Olivia Syed’s Sweet Potato Flan:

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can mashed sweet potatoes (yam)
  • &fract12; tsp grated lemon peel
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar


  1. In an 8-inch square baking pan, heat the sugar slowly on the stovetop.
  2. Caramelize the sugar. Once brown, remove from flame and let cool.
  3. Add all other ingredients to the blender and blend for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture on top of the pan with sugar, and cover with foil.
  5. Put the covered pan in a larger pan and add water until it is halfway the side of the smaller pan.
  6. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
  7. Let cool completely, then loosen sides with a knife and turn over onto a large platter.

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