[UPDATE: As of 6/4/2009, we learned that this establishment is no longer open.]
Shortly before every holiday, my mother sends me and my sister an email with a subject line like "Last Year's Menu." The word document she attaches—like the long-perfected meal it describes—is always extremely familiar, and yet we proceed to fake caucus. (My sister, last Wednesday: "sounds amazing. do we really need soup??") The inevitable joke is that any alterations will result in my having a mental breakdown. And that's fair, because I will. I'm afraid of change.
So I won't suggest that my mother replace her roast turkey and sausage-studded cornbread stuffing with a Cantonese-style air-dried bird. My constitution is far too delicate. However, I am comfortable with the idea of whole new traditions. So, from now on, a feast at Roasted Delights just before Thanksgiving—or a dinner party featuring one of their turkeys ("faw gai"), which are roasted in the same manner as the ducks and chickens we're accustomed to seeing in Chinatown windows, will be in order.
Many restaurants in Manhattan's Chinatown and in Flushing get into the turkey business for Thanksgiving. The Serious Eats team convened at Roasted Delights to sample theirs—after all, the 25 year-old restaurant specializes in this stuff. Our 15-pound bird was extremely juicy inside (white and dark meat both), crisp and amber on the exterior (thanks in part to air-drying prior to the roasting). Some bites of skin were downright duckish—not in flavor, but in ratio of surface crunch to melting subterranean fat—a beautiful combination—and one that doesn't come easily out of mom's oven.
The turkey isn't carved Western-style but hacked like other poultry and served with soy sauce and a mysterious, delicious gravy. When pressed, Candy Huang, the incredibly accommodating manager who took over when her grandfather retired a few years ago, swore the chef won't reveal the ingredients even to her. We spied some scallions floating in there, and ventured that there might be orange juice in the rich, meaty reduction, but some things in life can't be known.
What you should know: Turkeys range from about 13-16 pounds each and cost $4.75 per pound. They must be ordered two days in advance, which means tomorrow is your last chance to be a Thanksgiving hero. Roasted Delights requires a $30 deposit.
5 Catherine Street, New York NY 10038 (b/n Bowery and East Broadway; map)