We’re barely 3 weeks away from Christmas, and we’re restless from excitement! ‘Tis the season for fancy house parties, drinking, feasting, gifting, and more eating. We in Singapore generally take cue from the traditional American Christmas of turkey or ham, accompanied by several side dishes like potatoes and roasted vegetables. We at foodpanda love to spice up our dining experience, so we’re here to give you a few exciting new ideas on how to take your Christmas dinner to the next level – with international Christmas dishes! Impress your guests and your taste buds, with these exotic international culinary inspirations.
What is Australian famous for? Their barbecues, that’s what. And Christmas is no different – in fact, it gets better! In addition to the common Turkey with cranberry sauce, Christmas down under includes throwing prawns, lobsters, oysters and crayfish on the grill, for Christmas day lunch. Desserts can include pavlova, trifle and fresh seasonal fruit.
In Egypt, Christians like to gorge on Christmas Eve, often late after mass. As Egypt still observes the Coptic Calendar, however, this doesn’t take place until 6 January. Many cook a special meal known as fata, a kind of lamb stew with rice, bread and garlic, to get them in the holiday mood.
When we think French food, we sort of think something a little more refined and classy. Well, you’re not wrong to totally assume their Christmas is fancier than most because they like to treat themselves to a sumptuous meal of shellfish like oysters, lobster and baked scallops. The spread is not complete without an assortment of cheese, crepe and fruit. And who can forget foie gras and the famous buche de Nöel (log cake)?
While the rest of the world noshes on meat this festive season, most of Italy will avoid eating meat on Christmas Eve. Also known as The Vigil, this mostly Southern Italian tradition was born out of the common religious practice of abstaining from milk and meat dishes on the eve of certain holidays. So what do they put on their plates? The Feast of the Seven Fishes is the star of the evening, with delicacies such as fried eel, clams, cod, smelt, octopus and even snails making their appearance! Only on the next day is meat served, where a traditional il cotechino – a sausage made from pig’s intestines – is served).
Some of the most eyebrow-raising Christmas food comes from Iceland, where it’s not unusual to be served puffin or roasted reindeer – something that must lead to rather difficult conversations with Icelandic kids, about Rudolph. Icelanders further prove their culinary (and artistic) skills by frying up laufabrauð (leaf bread), a wafer-thin bread decorated with intricately cut patterns and shapes. The pièce de résistance of the Icelandic Christmas dinner is typically hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and sometimes rjúpa (a type of sea bird). However, on 23 December, the last day of Christmas fasting, meat is traditionally outlawed, and boiled potatoes and fermented skate are served instead. The potent pungent stench of the fish forces many people to choose to eat out in a restaurant, rather than risk making their home smell.
We all love how crazy and wacky the Japanese are when it comes to… basically everything! You’ll be glad to know they have kept their innovation consistent even with Christmas, as the traditional meal in Nippon land is a large bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). We’re not pulling a fast one on you; as a result of a super successful campaign from the company in 1974, KFC managed to convince the Japanese that Christmas and the Colonel were inextricable (the slogan was “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!”, or “Kentucky for Christmas!”). Soon enough there were snaking queues of people waiting to get their hands on some finger lickin’ good chicken. To add to the madness, KFC even takes reservations during this festive period!
Christmas is truly a time for family in Madagascar. Come 25 December, families don their best clothes and join together en masse for a delicious dinner of pork or chicken with rice. Mouth-watering variations include Akoho sy Voanio, a chicken and coconut stew, and Akoho misy Sakamalao, chicken cooked with garlic and ginger. Surprisingly, lychees are considered a special Christmas treat in Madagascar, so expect to see plenty of these little pink fruits decking out shop displays and street stalls at this time of year.
Now, we could mention the typical Scandinavian Christmas staples like herring, but that’s too boring for the Norwegian way of celebrating! In Norway – especially the western areas – no Christmas is complete with smalahove, which literally translates as “sheep’s head”. Prior to consumption, the fur, skin and brain is removed, before the head is salted, smoked and dried. It’s then boiled or steamed for three hours before being served with potatoes and plenty of aquavit – the potent Norwegian firewater made from potatoes. Occasionally, the brain is cooked inside the skull before being eaten with a spoon. Originally, smalahove was eaten by those with little money, but today it’s considered a delicacy.
The Philippines is already famous for its crazy contribution of balut (a developing bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell) to the world, so we don’t expect anything rudimentary from them when it comes to one of the biggest holidays of the year. Puto Bumbong is a Philippines Christmas delicacy served not just on Christmas day but in the days before, too. It’s basically a glutinous cake made with rice which has been dyed purple and steamed inside bamboo tubes. Suckling pig – usually spit-roasted over an open fire – is another popular Christmas Day food, and it’s also known as lechón de leche. It’s regarded as the country’s national dish and is eaten during any major celebration.
Since it was colonised primarily by the Dutch and English, South Africa is a place where the Christmas menu is inspired by dishes found in England and the Netherlands. This could be quite confusing since, traditionally, these foods come from cold weather climates, and South Africa is scorching hot in December. So, what’s the easiest solution? Make it a braai. One of the best parts about South African cuisine is the braai — similar to a barbecue but with a wood-burning fire instead of charcoal or gas — which gives the traditional Christmas meats like ham, lamb, turkey, and even prawns, a great summer flavour. If you are extra lucky, you’ll find a host who will forgo these traditional meats in favour of something much more tasty and unique, like blesbok, springbok, borewors sausage, or kudu.
Wani’s writing has always spoken on her behalf far more than the spoken word. Her emotional relationship with food is almost as intense as her crazy love for HIIT workouts. Having written all things lifestyle, Wani now embarks on her freelance journey, journalling her epicurean trails and sweaty gym sessions with relentless fervor.