Exotic Holiday Twist: Roasted Turkey with Asian Five-Spice and Onion-Giblet Gravy

July 17, 2023

Elevate your festive spread with our delectable creation: roasted turkey with a captivating blend of Asian five-spice and a tantalizing onion-giblet gravy. This innovative take on the traditional Thanksgiving turkey honors time-honored holiday customs while adding a touch of culinary adventure. The secret to this extraordinary dish lies in the inclusion of Chinese five-spice powder, which harmoniously combines the cherished holiday spices—cinnamon, star anise, fennel, and cloves—with the invigorating essence of Sichuan peppercorns, resulting in a symphony of flavors that will leave your taste buds enchanted.

Inspiration for this scrumptious dish traces back to a favored childhood meal—five-spice baked chicken. Over several months, my father and I experimented with this marinade, refining it on several ‘test-turkeys’, and collecting curious glances from the local grocery store butcher staff, puzzled at my mid-summer turkey roasts.

Our use of five-spice powder and sand ginger, a crucial spice in my mother’s Hakka Salt Baked Chicken recipe, resulted in an extraordinarily flavorful turkey. Its striking dark amber hue is the result of using both regular and dark soy sauce, alongside a diligent basting process.

An Ode to Onion-Giblet Gravy

At the end of any feast, the lasting impression comes down to the gravy. I adore slathering my entire plate in it and find myself nervously watching my dad prepare it each year, hoping there will be enough. The standout component of this dish, without a doubt, is the onion giblet gravy.

We weren’t initially a family who enjoyed giblet gravy, but now I can’t imagine making turkey gravy any other way. Blending the giblets and caramelized onions from the roasting pan into the gravy results in the richest, most flavor-packed gravy I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.


For the Turkey:

  • 14-15 pound young turkey
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon sand ginger powder or galangal powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 6 medium yellow onions (cut into wedges)

For the Gravy:

  • The giblets (roasted onions, and drippings from the roasting pan)
  • Butter (if required)
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • Chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper


  1. Next, arrange the onion wedges at the bottom of your roasting pan to act as a natural “rack” for the turkey to rest on.
  2. Take the turkey out of the packaging. Extract the neck and the giblets from the turkey’s cavity, rinse the bird thoroughly with cold water, and pat dry using paper towels. Position it breast side down in the pan. Smear half of the prepared marinade thoroughly on the underside of the turkey, ensuring all surfaces and corners (including the cavity) are covered. Flip the turkey breast side up, and spread the remaining marinade over this side. Also apply some marinade on the neck and giblets, adding them to the pan as well.
  3. Seal the roasting pan tightly with plastic and let the turkey marinate overnight, breast side up.
  4. On the day of roasting, let the turkey sit at room temperature for about 2-4 hours to warm up. This helps avoid uneven cooking that may result from direct transfer from refrigerator to oven. Bind the legs together using kitchen twine.
  5. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and adjust a rack to the lower third of the oven 4 hours before serving time. Position the turkey breast side down and place it in the center of the oven. Roast for half an hour. Then, baste the turkey with any accumulated pan drippings, and rotate the pan by 180 degrees for even cooking. Roast for another half an hour.
  6. Having roasted at 425 degrees F for an hour, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F, and flip the turkey breast side up. Baste the turkey with pan drippings, brushing off any stuck onions or other bits. If the roasting pan appears dry, add half a cup of water to prevent burning of onions or pan drippings.
  7. Continue roasting for an additional 75-90 minutes, basting occasionally, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165-170 degrees F and the juices run clear (not pink). Rotate the turkey pan by 180 degrees if necessary to counteract uneven oven heating. If the top of the turkey starts to darken excessively, loosely cover it with a large piece of foil to prevent burning.
  8. Once done, remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes, lightly covered with foil. Following the initial resting, transfer the turkey to a cutting board or serving plate, maintaining the foil cover.
  9. Use a slotted spoon to remove any burnt bits or unwanted pieces from the roasting pan. Then, scoop out the onions and giblets and transfer them to a blender. If giblets aren’t to your taste, you could shred the neck meat and add it to the blender instead, though this is purely optional.
  10. Now, it’s time to prepare the gravy. Blend the onions and giblets (or shredded neck meat, if used) until smooth. In a medium heat saucepan, add the turkey fat. You should have about a quarter cup. If you don’t, supplement with butter until you have the required amount.
  11. Whisk in a quarter cup of all-purpose flour to form a roux, and cook for approximately 3 minutes, whisking consistently. Reduce heat if necessary to avoid burning.
  12. Whisk in the paprika, the blender contents, and the juices from the roasting pan. Remember, gravy thickness is a matter of preference, so adjust accordingly! If the gravy seems too thick, add more chicken stock until you reach your desired consistency. Simmer the gravy for about 2 minutes, whisking consistently.
  13. Now, add the dark soy sauce, which primarily provides color. Add enough to achieve the rich hue you’re seeking. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste.
  14. Your turkey should now be fully rested. Carve the turkey and serve with the prepared gravy on the side. Enjoy your feast!

Remember, the perfect turkey takes time and patience, but the result is definitely worth it. Don’t rush the process and enjoy every moment of your culinary journey. Enjoy your unique Asian-inspired holiday feast!

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