The taste of KFC: Fish sauce is Diep Tran’s trick up his sleeve

Chef Diep Tran uses fish sauce, cilantro, coriander, black pepper, sugar and ginger to make a wet mix and parchment of butter to roast his turkey. “Every cook I’ve roasted a turkey for says they can’t put their finger on it but say it tastes like KFC,” laughs Tran. The secret ingredient is fish sauce, which goes into her sauce and the porridge she uses for broth. Her cookbook,The Red Boat Fish Sauce Cookbook”, debuts next month.

Red Boat Holiday Turkey with Sauce
For 8 to 10 people

This is the turkey that our R&D head, Diep Tran, originally developed for her restaurant, Good Girl Dinette, and she continues to make this turkey every year. To achieve a juicy, flavor-packed holiday turkey, Diep takes the initial step of spatchcocking the bird so it lays flat while roasting (if you’d rather not do this step yourself, it’s worth the effort). worth asking if your butcher could do it for you). The advantage of this method is that it reduces cooking time and ensures that the turkey roasts evenly. She then coats the bird with a moist mixture of ginger, roasted spices and Red Boat fish sauce, and lets it sit in the fridge for up to four days. Finally, when roasting, Diep wraps the turkey in generously buttered parchment paper to keep the poultry juicy and tender. The inspiration for this technique, she says, came after reading a 1995 Saveur article about Southern cook Anne Scott Coleman and her mother, LouElla Hill, who roasted her turkey in a buttered paper bag. While the turkey roasts, Diep prepares a delicious gravy, using the backbone removed from the bird’s cocking to make the broth. The sauce is finished with a few dollops of fish sauce swirled just before serving.


1 turkey (12 pounds)


  • 7 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground cilantro, preferably freshly ground
  • ¼ cup chopped ginger
  • 2 sticks of butter, divided
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces, green and white parts
  • ½ cup Red Boat Fish Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ground black pepper


  • ¾ pound white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons Red Boat Fish Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


Spatchcock the turkey

  1. Place the turkey breast side down. Using sturdy culinary shears, cut both sides of the spine. Remove the backbone and set aside to make the sauce.
  2. With the breast still facing down, use a sturdy knife to cut down the middle of the triangle.
  3. Flip the turkey breast side up. Press down on the breast with both hands until the breastbone cracks and the turkey lays flat.
  4. Place the turkey on a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the marinade.

Make the marinade

  1. Grind the cloves into a fine powder.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté the ground cloves, ground coriander and ginger in 1 stick of butter until the coriander powder begins to blacken and the ginger begins to caramelize.
  3. Add garlic and onion and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the onion mixture from the pan to the bowl of a food processor. Add the sugar and green onions, then stir until the ginger in the mixture is finely ground.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add fish sauce and black pepper. Stir to combine.
  6. Take the baking sheet with the turkey out of the fridge. Rub the mixture over the skin and underside of the turkey. Leave to marinate for at least 1 day, ideally 4 days, in the refrigerator.

Roast the turkey

  1. When you’re ready to roast the turkey, preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Take the turkey out of the fridge. Take a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the entire turkey and rub one side with an entire stick of butter. Place the parchment paper, buttered side down, over the turkey, placing the parchment paper under the rack so there is no overhang.
  3. Roast the turkey. After 1 hour, remove the parchment paper and turn the turkey. Continue cooking, turning the turkey every 20 minutes to ensure evening browning. The turkey is done once its internal temperature reaches 165°F, about an hour after the bird’s first rotation.
  4. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, reserving any juices that have accumulated on the baking sheet to make the sauce.

make the sauce

  1. Start the sauce by making a turkey broth: place the turkey backbone, turkey neck, onions, celery and enough water to cover in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 2½ hours. Filter and reserve.
    Alternatively, you can prepare the broth in a pressure cooker if you have one: place the backbone, turkey neck, onions, celery and enough water to cover the pressure cooker. Cook for 20 minutes, then strain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, deglaze the cooking plate: pour the cooking juices from the turkey in the cooking plate into a cup. Skim and discard the fat, leaving the remaining juice in the cup. Place the baking sheet over medium heat and pour in 1 cup of water. Working quickly with a spatula, deglaze the sheet by scraping up the bits of caramelized juice stuck to the pan. Gently pour the liquid into the cup with the cooking juices and set aside.
  3. Make a roux: Place the butter and flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring continuously, cook until the mixture turns a deep golden color, making sure to remove any lumps in the roux. A smooth roux will result in a smooth sauce.
  4. Add the pan juices and deglazing liquid to the pan and bring to a boil, then add 1 ½ cups of turkey broth. Bring to a boil, then add the heavy cream and bring to a boil again. Continue to boil until the sauce has reduced and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Taste and add up to 2 more tablespoons of fish sauce if needed. If the sauce is too salty, add more turkey broth. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl or gravy boat and serve with the turkey.


** Save and use turkey bones for broth. To do this, use the same techniques for making chicken broth. This turkey broth is perfect for making an invigorating bowl of porridge the day after that feast. And any leftover turkey meat will also be a great topping in a bánh mì!

“The Red Boat Fish Sauce Cookbook” goes to the heart of Vietnamese cuisine and how the ingredient is the secret weapon of flavor. Photo courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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