Cultural dishes join turkey on Thanksgiving table


Korean Japchae noodles are a welcome side for Thanksgiving in Corrine Rivas’ household. Photo by Corrine Rivas.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — On Thanksgiving, it’s easy to figure out what’ll be on most people’s table: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes.

But, in El Paso and across the United States, cultural dishes are quickly becoming traditional norms, alongside the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Due to its large Hispanic population, it’s not unusual to see chile incorporated into Thanksgiving dishes in El Paso and the surrounding areas, as well as foods like chile con queso as a side along with tostadas.

El Pasoan Christina Gerardo said her family has marinated their turkey in achiote in the past, and this year, they are making a chile colorado paste as a rub for their turkey.

Instead of turkey sandwiches, Gerardo said her family enjoys turkey flautas and turkey enchiladas, among other turkey “recalentadas.”

For El Pasoan Jeanne Degalea, who is of Filipino descent, traditional Filipino dishes like lumpia (Filipino spring rolls) and kare kare (a Filipino stew made with a thick peanut sauce) are Thanksgiving regulars, alongside turkey.

Korean foods, such as macha green tea rice cakes with sweet red bean paste (black container) and myulchi bokkeum (white dish on right) sit alongside traditional Thanksgiving foods. Photo by Deb Yer.

Deb Yer, an El Pasoan who is half-Korean, adds in Korean desserts, such as macha green tea rice cakes with sweet red bean paste and sesame rice balls with sweet red bean paste.

Yer said another cultural dish she adds to her turkey table is myulchi bokkeum, seasoned stir-fry anchovies, that she enjoys with rice.

Corrine Rivas, whose grandmother hails from Okinawa, Japan, said her Thanksgiving table is filled with all the traditional Thanksgiving foods. But sides like egg rolls, sushi and gyoza were also Thanksgiving staples in her home, as well as Korean Japchae noodles (stir-fried crystal noodles and vegetables).

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy an all-American meal with family and friends, and a way to celebrate one’s culture at the same time. The United States is, after all, a melting pot where cultures come together to create something new, and El Paso is no different than the rest of the country in this regard.

Share your favorite cultural dishes that have become family staples for Thanksgiving and the holidays with us! Email us at

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