Yia Vang's Leftover Turkey Habits Are So Relatable - Exclusive

If you think you've got a big Thanksgiving guest list, let this be a lesson in perspective. Chef Yia Vang's Thanksgiving plans are almost guaranteed to be bigger than yours — like, rent out a community center bigger. If you've got that many people showing up to a party, you're likely to have equally as many egos vying over its star dish: the turkey.

"[My] uncles always think that they have the perfect recipe to make the most moist Turkey, every year," Vang dished to Mashed in an exclusive interview. "Now my cousins, who are my age and mid-30s, they're all like, 'Maybe we can start doing the turkey.'" The chef, though, doesn't get caught up in the hacks. 

You won't catch Vang trying to deep-fry a turkey, roast it on the car engine — or whatever the kids are doing these days. "I love to keep it real simple. I tell people, 'Roasting a turkey is roasting a really big chicken.' It takes time, you have to break it down," Vang explained. "The best thing is that I always spatchcock the turkey because that's the only way to get the whole turkey to be roasted evenly. The Norman Rockwell photo of that turkey, that big picture that is so iconic. I'm like, 'That doesn't work in real life. It's fake.'" Just as he's a turkey cooking purist, the Union Hmong Kitchen founder is a turkey leftover purist, too.

Chef Yia Vang's favorite thing to do with leftover turkey

Yia Vang has a hard time pinpointing a preferred Thanksgiving dish. The mix of foods his family brings to celebrate is what makes the night magical. "That's what I loved about Thanksgiving," Vang told Mashed. "We didn't have to pick a side. We would have steamed rice rolls — 'faum kauv,' ... We'll have egg rolls, and we'll have different kinds of noodle dishes. We'll have all of that, plus, on the other hand, we'll have your turkey, and we'll have your stuffing, and we'll have your gravy also." For the Hmong chef, it's the perfect union of the two cuisines he grew up with.

If push comes to shove, however, Vang might tell you his favorite part of the night is the after-party. "I am a huge sucker for leftover turkey," Yang admitted. "That's my jam right there ... I'm old school. Eating cold turkey later, after Thanksgiving dinner, at 10:00, 10:30 at night is my favorite thing to do." 

Here's a thought. Instead of frantically searching for overly complicated leftover hacks on the interwebs this season, maybe do like Vang does. "I strip it down, and then, I do the open-face sandwich," he explained. "It's a big chunk of bread, mashed potatoes, turkey, and the gravy over it. It reminds me of school lunch because that's what they would do too — the open-face sandwich. I love it."

Follow Yang on Instagram for updates on his day-to-day culinary innovations. Yia Vang's new show, "Feral," premieres Monday, November 28, on the Outdoor Channel.