by Ken Tsui | Before Curtis Luk and his kitchen crew gear up for another night at Gastown’s Bambudda, they’re celebrating a late Thanksgiving, Bambudda style. “We didn’t really get a chance to celebrate,” says Curtis, “so we’re making up for it tonight.”
To build the menu, the kitchen team draws from their childhood Thanksgiving experiences. Chef Justin Ell replaces the traditional turkey with a pair of chickens stuffed with ‘nduja sausage; Chef Luk shares his aunt’s guarded recipe for sweet and sour pork; Tim Wong spends the afternoon cooking Chinese BBQ spare ribs; and Chef Zach Somjen ties the holiday theme together with his family’s classic dessert, a whopping sweet potato pie.
The cooks spend the afternoon leisurely preparing their dishes while tooling their usual service prep. In the final hour before the first customers arrive, Justin pulls the chickens out of the oven and stuffs them with soft boiled eggs marinated in chilis, black vinegar, and XO sauce, while Chef Somjen puts a torch to his pie’s marshmallow top and Curtis adds to the decadence by frying up cronuts with some leftover dessert dough. “This is how chefs get fat”, he laughs, tossing them into the fryer.
As the dishes come out of the kitchen, owner Ray Loy brings out a stack of plates and cutlery for the feast and the spread of food begins to look like a hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated traditions that ring true to the Thanksgiving experience inside a Chinese-Canadian household. The crew takes a minute to snap photos before grabbing individual plates and enjoying – together – their much deserved (if belated) Thanksgiving.