This is the first part in a series looking at how different cultures celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. At the end of each story is a recipe for you to try.
For 22-year-old Nyemal Chuol, Thanksgiving is a big, multiple day affair.
"Thanksgiving is Nov. 24, but it's not just that one day," said Chuol, who is originally from Sudan. "All of the Sudanese in town will rent a big space, like a church or community center and just have a big festival."
The recent college graduate immigrated to the United States with her parents from Ethiopia in 1994. The family, originally from Sudan, left their native country early in Chuol's childhood due to civil unrest. The Chuols brought their children to America in hopes that they would have better education and more opportunities.
Chuol is the oldest of 10 children, the youngest of whom is nine months old. The family first moved to Texas, then San Diego, and now they all live in Alaska, except for Chuol who resides in San Diego.
"Our culture is family oriented, and for [Thanksgiving] it's not just immediate family," said Chuol. "We invite all of our relatives." Chuol went on to describe how most Sudanese celebrate holidays over multiple days with their families and other members of their community.
Chuol's family serves a mixture of traditional Sudanese dishes and American staples for Thanksgiving. One of Chuol's favorite Sudanese dishes is sambusas, a triangle egg-roll type of dish.
"You can make it tons of different ways, either sweet with a coconut cream cheese filling for dessert or with ground beef and seasonings," Chuol said. "We also have these little, tiny, fine dough balls that we fry - kind of like couscous - and then 'injera' which is like a flat bread you can make."
After the meal, the family will gather for tea and story time. "Tea is a big deal," Chuol said. Parents will take turns telling stories, and each family member will share what they are thankful for.
And after that? Maybe some coconut cream sambusas.
Sudanese-style Beef Sambusa
- 2 pounds of ground beef
- 1 finely chopped onion
- Small block of frozen spinach
- 1-2 tsp minced garlic or finely chopped cloves
- 1-2 Tbsp finely diced carrots
- 1-2 tbsp finely chopped celery
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
- 1-2 tsp paprika (I use berbera instead. It is a spicy power made from several other spices)
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1 packet of sambusa pads
1. Put the ground beef in the pot of your choosing on high-medium heat.
2. Add onions, carrots, spinach, celery, garlic and onions. Stir.
3. Season the meat before it is done cooking. Let cool.
4. Fill each sambusa cone with about 1 Tbsp. of the meat filling.
5. Seal the top seam with flour paste.
6. Preheat oil on medium heat.
7. Cook 4 sambusas at a time until golden on both sides.
8. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
9. Enjoy by eating them whole or cutting them into halves.