From the Kitchen of FEMA Staff

Release Date

This month, FEMA staff are celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month by sharing some favorite recipes and go-to comfort foods.

From the kitchen of Norma Su’a Owens

Norma’s Real Island Poke

  • 1 lb. of very fresh Ahi Tuna (Cut ahi into small but not tiny cubes).
  • 1 bunch of green onions or scallions.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger.
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil.
  • ½ cup sesame oil.
  • Pinch of chili pepper flakes.
  • ¼ cup of Aloha Shoyu.

Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix, then add ahi tuna and carefully toss. You may need to add a little more Shoyu or sesame oil as needed to your liking. Place in a clean bowl and serve with very hot rice - or I like to eat it by itself to just enjoy Poke. I also like to add avocados to my poke sometimes.

From the kitchen of Grants Management Specialist Celine Carus

Celine’s Shoyu Chicken

Photo of Celine’s Shoyu Chicken

This recipe holds a lot of nostalgia for me. My mom would cook this and serve it over rice with vegetables and pack leftovers for me to bring to lunch in a Thermos. It’s saucy, salty and a great meal prep idea.


  • ½ cup soy sauce.
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar.
  • ¼ cup brown sugar.
  • 1¼ cup water.
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger root.
  • 1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic.
  • 5 lbs. chicken.
  • ¼ cup cornstarch. 


Combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, 1 cup of the water, ginger and garlic into a large mixing bowl. Marinate chicken pieces for 2 hours. Once marinated, pour entire bowl contents into a large skillet or pot and bring to a boil. Then set to simmer for approximately 30-40 minutes until chicken is tender. Use remaining ¼ cup of water to mix with cornstarch and stir into the pot until it thickens sauce. Serves eight.

Note: Any chicken is fine – thighs, boneless, bone-in, etc. Garnish with some green onion and serve over rice!

From the kitchen of Program Analyst Jessica Chen

Thanksgiving “Turkey” with a Chinese Twist

Growing up in the United States, my parents were intent on adopting the traditions of their new country and integrating their children with the society we would be living in. We primarily spoke English with only a smattering of Chinese and celebrated most American holidays.

There were only a few exceptions my parents made in their desire to have us fit in. The first was attending a Chinese school on weekends. Even if we didn’t speak much Chinese at home, they wanted us to be able to understand the language and the culture they came from. The second was the food. My parents have never changed their preferences in the types of food they prefer to eat and the flavor profiles that they gravitate to, even after some 40-odd years in the United States. They still prefer simple stir fries to salads and casseroles; white rice to brown rice or potatoes; tofu to cheese; soy sauce, ginger and scallions to salt, pepper and “western” spices; and for Thanksgiving they MUCH preferred duck to turkey. So, of course, instead of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, we did our own Eight-Treasures Stuffed Duck.

Thanksgiving at our house was always a daylong affair of family cooking. My father would get us started at 10 a.m., de-boning the duck and marinating it. My mother would join in around noon, chopping all the ingredients and cooking the rice for the stuffing. From an early age, I helped with the stuffing ingredients—chopping as directed, adding soy sauce, mixing the cooked ingredients together, and—my favorite part—stuffing the duck with as much rice as we thought wouldn’t burst out of the seams. Later, I learned to debone the duck myself and have carried on our Thanksgiving tradition by making the same dish every year for friends and family. (I’m the only one in my generation who has mastered the recipe, and my parents are tired of making it!)

So, I hope you enjoy our Thanksgiving tradition! It may be a lot of work to make and master, but I guarantee it’s worth the effort!

I’ve also attached a recipe for our favorite Chinese New Year dessert: Red Bean Rice Cakes. Traditionally they’re eaten to represent improving yourself and your circumstances each year. Enjoy!

Eight-Treasures Stuffed Duck


  • 1 whole duck 
  • 2 cups uncooked glutinous rice
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice cooking wine (I suggest Shaoxing wine, but any rice wine will do)
  • Vegetable/canola/sunflower oil (anything but olive oil)
  • Five spice powder 
  • Ginger 
  • 8 Treasures ideas (you may pick and choose which ingredients to use, so long as you have 8): 
  • .5 lbs. duck gizzards (cut into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes) 
  • 2-3 Chinese sausages (cut into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes) 
  • 1 can baby corn, drained 
  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts, soaked in warm water
  • 1/2 cup soybeans (shelled) 
  • 1/2 cup five-spice hard tofu (cut into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes) 
  • 1/2 cup carrots (cut into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes) 
  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms (cut into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes) 
  • 1/2 cup water chestnuts (cut into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes) 
  • 1/2 cup bamboo shoots – fresh bamboo shoots taste significantly better than canned here (cut into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes) 
  • 1/2 cup lotus seeds, soaked in warm water

Kitchen implements required:

  • Tweezers with a thick tip 
  • Needle and thread 
  • A large wok/pan/pot (for the rice stuffing) 
  • A large baking dish, at least 2 inches deep 


  1. Leave the duck in the refrigerator the day before to thaw. 
  2. Soak the Shiitake mushrooms in warm water. Soak the raw peanuts and lotus seeds in warm water in a separate bowl.
  3. Start cooking your rice. Use a little less water than you would usually use in making your rice and allow the rice to remain just a little bit under-cooked. 2 cups (uncooked) are usually more than enough to stuff your duck with some left over, but if you're making this for a dinner party with a lot of people, you will probably want to make more. 
  4. De-bone the duck. (If you've never done it before, it's very much like de-boning a turkey. This step is not absolutely necessary, but I prefer to do it because it makes the finished product far easier to eat and gives you more room for stuffing. Leave in the breastbone to give the bird a little more shape while it’s cooking.) 
  5. Place the de-boned duck in the baking dish and liberally apply soy sauce and rice wine. Cut 5-10 thin slices of ginger and rub into the duck. Add five-spice powder to taste. Let marinate while preparing other ingredients.
  6. Mince ~.5 cm of ginger. Cut your chosen eight treasures into ~.5 - 1 cm cubes. Here’s a few helpful hints for some of my suggested ingredients:
    1. If you’re using shiitake mushrooms (discard the stems of the mushrooms, but save the water used to rehydrate them). If the mushrooms are not completely rehydrated, then replace them in the water to soak longer.
    2. If you’re using peanuts that have skin, peel them (you can generally just squeeze them if they’ve been soaking long enough, and they should pop right out of their skins).
  7. Sauté the minced ginger, meat, raw peanuts, and carrots in the wok with soy sauce to taste. Add in some of the water from the mushrooms as well (don’t add it all in, as the bottom will have some sand/residue that can create a weird texture). When the meat is cooked through, add in the rest of the 8 treasures, with more soy sauce. Heat just until the carrots become soft. Remove from heat and add in the rice, adding soy sauce to taste (not to color!) 
  8. Pre-heat your oven to 375°F. Examine the duck carefully and pluck any remaining quills (this is what those tweezers of yours are for). Sometimes they are very well plucked, and other times they are not. This step is mostly optional, except when the duck has very large quills remaining, but removing as many as possible will give the duck better taste and texture. 
  9. Sew up ONE side of the duck. Be careful not to leave any holes for the stuffing to fall through. I usually sew up the side where the neck was, since the hole there is a bit smaller. 
  10. Stuff the duck with the rice, being extremely careful not to touch your cooking implements to the raw duck. It is NOT hygienic or safe to touch implements to the raw duck, as the leftover rice will only be lightly heated instead of being thoroughly cooked. Only stuff the duck to ~2/3 full. The rice will expand as it cooks and will burst through the seam if too much is put in. 
  11. Sew up the other side of the duck, again being careful to avoid any obvious holes. Flatten your duck out a bit by pressing on the breast, this is just to make sure that any stuffing that may have been packed tight against one side spreads evenly. 
  12. In your baking dish (It can be made of anything, metal, glass, clay, etc. I often just buy the disposable pans that are often used for roasting turkeys), arrange your duck breast side down (or whichever side you think will look nicer in the end facing down since it will be flipped later). I often also tie the wings and legs together to create a prettier presentation. Place approximately half of your ginger slices (see Step 5) on top of the duck with the other half underneath the duck, and liberally apply soy sauce and five spice powder. Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes, spooning the juice over the duck again at regular intervals. 
  13. Remove the duck from the oven, and flip it over (breast side up), then replace in the oven without covering. Bake for 35 minutes, spooning the juice over the duck at regular intervals. 
  14. All done with the duck! But what do we do with the leftover stuffing now? Here you have a couple of options. Many believe that the stuffing inside the duck is the tastiest part of the dish and wish to have just a bit more of that delicious stuffing. To simulate that taste (though it’s still not quite the same), I sometimes mix as much of the stuffing as will fit into the juice at the bottom of the pan, and then put it back in the oven for 15 minutes. This not only reheats your stuffing, it also gets that rich duck flavor into it. Of course, this also means that the meal is quite a bit less healthy since you’re mixing all the duck fat that rendered from cooking back into the stuffing. It can also get very salty since it’s basically duck fat and soy sauce. 

If you’re not up for extra salty, duck fat-filled fried rice, you can also serve the stuffing separately, and it will still taste just as delicious. I recommend that you cover it and bake it for at least 15 minutes, as most of the ingredients were previously slightly undercooked, and this way everything will be fully cooked and steaming hot for the table.  

Red Bean Rice Cakes


  • 1 lb. sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour)
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • Red (azuki) bean paste, premade (can be bought or made using the recipe below – I like mine chunky, but you can also use smooth red bean paste)


  1. Combine dry ingredients (rice flour, sugar and baking powder) in a medium bowl.
  2. In a separate large mixing bowl, beat eggs and vegetable oil together.
  3. Alternately mix dry ingredients and milk into the eggs, starting and ending with dry ingredients, and adding the dry mix in thirds.
  4. Oil and flour the pan to prevent sticking.
  5. Pour the mixture into the pan (the mixture should be the texture of a thick liquid. If it’s not, you probably missed an ingredient – no worries, because you can add it in last minute and mix thoroughly). If adding red bean paste, drop the paste into the mixture in spoonfuls.
  6. Bake at 350℉ for approximately 45 min, turning the pan halfway through. 
    The finished rice cake can be enjoyed hot or cooled to room temperature, but should not be chilled in the refrigerator (it gets really hard and loses the chewy texture).

Red Bean Paste


  • 1/4 cup dried red (azuki/adzuki/aduki) beans
  • 2-3 cups water
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sugar (more can be added to taste)


  1. Soak beans in water overnight (optional). Drain and discard water.
  2. Combine beans and water in a saucepan or small pot.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, adding more water as needed until the beans are soft and can be crushed between your fingers, approximately 1.5-2 hours.
  4. Add in sugar and taste test the mixture to determine whether the level of sweetness is correct and add more sugar, as needed (keep in mind that it will taste slightly sweeter when it cools).
  5. Simmer until the mixture thickens to a runny paste.
  6. Mash red beans into the liquid until they become the proper consistency for your recipe.
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