Lemongrass and Anise Turkey with Sweet and Spicy Plum Sauce

Now what we’ve all been waiting for, the turkey! This Vietnamese Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a bird as the centerpiece of all the wonderful side dishes shared. It was no surprise when I chose to tackle this project that this turkey would be inspired by the delicious flavors of pho. For those unfamiliar with pho, it is a Vietnamese noodle dish that swims in a flavorful broth that has been pumped up with meats, fresh veggies and delightful hoisin and sriracha sauce. What many may not be aware of is all the work that goes into creating this broth. Ultimately pretty simple if you know the ingredients which includes everything from anise seeds to lemongrass and even fish sauce. To make sure I captured all the flavors of pho in this turkey, I included all the ingredients that would typically be used and I figured ginger wouldn’t hurt either.

When it was finally time to carve, I was already overwhelmed by the mouthwatering aroma that trickled past my nose. A few simple swishes of the knife to make sure I would get a wonderful cut and then the first slice. The skin was crisp and the meat was juicy, tender and flavorful. Everything I wanted. Of course, I couldn’t forget the gravy which was a wonderful Sweet and Spicy Plum Sauce. The perfect complement to the Lemongrass and Anise Turkey.

And just in case there are a few worriers out there about the roasting time, the answer is yes, this may be the quickest bird you ever roast. Awesome bonus right!

Lemongrass and Anise Turkey with Sweet and Spicy Plum Sauce

Cook Time: 2 hours

Yield: Serves 12


  • 1 (11 to 12 lbs) frozen young turkey, innards removed
  • vegetable oil
  • Brine Ingredients:
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 gallon chicken stock
  • 2 star anise seeds
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 3 limes, juice
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water
  • Aromatics Ingredients:
  • 1-2 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1-2 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 cup water
  • 4-6 sprigs mint
  • Plum Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 10-oz jar plum jam
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp yellow onion, minced
  • 1 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated


  1. In a large stock pot (one that will fit the entire turkey), add all the brine ingredients - except the iced water - and bring to a boil. Then remove the pot from the heat and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, add the iced water into the pot, stir and the place the turkey breast side down into the mixture. Brine for a minimum of 8 hours (16 hours maximum) making sure to flip the turkey halfway through the brining. Keep the container cold throughout the brining period by refrigerating or placing the pot into a bucket filled with ice.
  2. When ready, remove the turkey from the brine, place the bird on a roasting rack inside a baking pan and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. In a dish, combine all the aromatics - except the mint - and steep in the microwave for 5 minutes. Place the steeped ingredients into the cavity of the turkey including the sprigs of mint.
  4. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with vegetable oil.
  5. Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and roast for an additional 1 hour or until the thermometer reads 161 degrees F. Remove the turkey from the oven, loosely cover with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.
  6. Meanwhile, make the Plum Sauce by bringing all the ingredients to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and serve alongside the turkey. This sauce is okay at room temperature as well.

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