“What’s Cooking?” For A Fork & A Flick Friday

“What’s Cooking?” invites you to Thanksgiving and although over a decade old, I think this is a befitting movie to reflect on and enjoy this month of November. The film didn’t really receive many accolades with its release at the turn of the millennium, but Roger Ebert spoke well of it and stated “In recent years most Thanksgiving movies have been about families at war. Here are four families that have, in one way or another, started peace talks.”

“What’s Cooking?” details the lives of four ethnically diverse families — Black, Latino, Jewish, and Asian — during one frantic Thanksgiving and takes a look at multiculturalism in Los Angeles. It’s entertaining to see how each family has its own distinct way of cooking the traditional holiday meal along with its own set of problems.

I’m ringing in this Thanksgiving film with a smorgasbord of ethnic dishes that fit into the holiday theme. To celebrate our Vietnamese family, the Nguyen’s, we are starting off with Spring Rolls. The parents struggle to understand their Americanized children after discovering condoms in their eldest daughter’s jacket and a gun in their son’s room.


Chicken Spring Rolls


1 tablespoon soy sauce

freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground chicken

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 stalk green onion, chopped

1 tablespoon basil chopped

1/2 head of small cabbage (about 8 ounces), shredded

2 carrots, thin julienne cut

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup water

50 spring roll wrappers, defrosted

1 liter oil, for deep frying


  1. In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce and pepper. Add in the chicken and mix well. Let marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in just 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil. Stir fry the ground chicken until browned. Remove browned ground chicken from wok to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Clean wok and heat to medium. When just starting to get hot, swirl in another 1 tablespoon cooking oil. Add in the green onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn.
  4. Add in the carrots and cabbage. Stir well and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir fry the vegetables for 2 minutes, or until the carrots have softened. Add the cooked chicken back into the wok, stir well. Add in basil and the oyster sauce and toss again.
  5. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet to let cool. Prop up the baking sheet on one end so that any liquid collects on the other side. When the mixture is cool, discard the liquid.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water. This is your slurry. Open the egg roll wrapper package, cover with barely damp towel to prevent drying out.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon of filling to egg roll and roll up. Secure with cornstarch slurry. Keep rolled egg rolls covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
  8. When ready to fry, heat 1 1/2" of oil in a wok or deep, heavy skillet to). Carefully slide in the egg rolls, a few at a time, to the oil to fry. Turn the egg rolls to brown evenly and fry for about 3 minutes.
  9. Let cool on rack. Repeat with remaining.


Meanwhile, at the Latino household, young Anthony Avila invites his womanizing father for Thanksgiving dinner, unbeknownst to his schoolteacher mother Elisabeth, played by Mercedes Ruehl. On the other hand, Elizabeth hasn’t told her children that she has invited her new boyfriend, a teacher. I have known many Latino families to celebrate Thanksgiving with Tamales, but to keep with traditional Thanksgiving pies and homestyle cooking, I have a Shepherd’s Pie with a Latin twist. Try my Picadillo Shepherd’s Pie recipe while you sit back and enjoy “What’s Cooking? during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Beef Picadillo Shepherd's Pie

We won’t forget the Turkey this Thanksgiving as Audrey and Ron Williams does not let us forget it while they keep their own family’s ruptures secret from Ron’s visiting mother.  However, as I watched Mother Williams’s famous macaroni and cheese being prepared, I wanted to take another culinary multicultural plunge with Chipotle Mac and Cheese.

BeFunky_CIMG5153.jpgAs I know that during the holiday season Jewish homes are filled with baking, and a good Rugelach can’t go missed. While you watch the Seeling family confronted with their daughter Rachel’s (Kyra Sedwick) lesbianism, when she brings home her lover Carla (Julianna Margulies), take a bite into a yummy Chocolate Rugelach for dessert.


What’s Cooking?” handles the issues of race, ethnicity and sexuality that percolate through the film with a light, humorous touch. It interconnects families in Los Angeles’ Fairfax area much in the style of “Love Actually”.  While crowded with people and incidents, it also picturizes tamales, spring rolls, kugel, mac & cheese alongside all the fixings and trimmings of a Thanksgiving meal.

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