When you think “Christmas,” you may automatically (and naturally) salivate at memories of roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and eggnog, but this year, let’s throw your tastebuds a curveball; let’s serve traditional Christmas dishes from around the world, dishes that include the intriguing likes of Sweden’s Janssons Frestelse
(potato gratin flavored with pickled fish), Mexico’s Menudo
(soup consisting of beef stomach, chili peppers, and spices…all of which is also hangover remedy), or Puerto Rico’s Arroz con gondolas
(yellow rice and pigeon peas with olives, capers, and pieces of ham).
Adventurous food guides worldwide will take you to where you can taste some of mankind’s most unique meals, but if you’re staying home this Christmas, we’ve done you a favor and collected a variety of international dishes that will spice up (sometimes literally) your holiday party. This year, like tour guides with good taste in Africa, why not try goat curry, and like guides in Italy, why not sit down to a Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Vigilia), an Italian tradition that commemorates the wait for the birth of the baby Jesus, and entails eating seven different seafood dishes?
For Thanksgiving in November, we came out with the blog post, “Ditch the Turkey: Try 12 Foreign Fall Recipes.” And now we’re releasing round two: 11 International Christmas Dish Recipes.
Risengrød is simply rice pudding, but simple in name does not necessarily equate to simple in taste. Topped with ample cinnamon sugar, risengrød is more than fit to replace your traditional Christmas pudding (perhaps the one made of cake in the shape of a log), but what makes this Danish dessert extra fun is that one almond is placed into the pudding, and whoever finds the whole peeled almond in their bowl wins a gift.
Comically translated as “wrapped-up kids,” niños envueltos
are the Argentinian Christmas tradition, and they consist of filling three-inch squares of steak with other meats, spices, hardboiled egg, and onion. The squares are then rolled, cooked, and popped into the mouth like candy. Roast turkey will be history once you get your hands on one of these South American treats.
The single most important part of a Venezuelan Christmas dinner is hallacas
, a tamale-like dish consisting of a cornmeal crust stuffed with meat, olives, raisins, peppers, and pickled vegetables. The whole thing is then wrapped in a banana leaf, boiled, and served to patiently-awaiting guests. Heads up: these bundles of deliciousness are time-consuming to make, and they often require the hands of more than one person, but they are worth every effort. And since they’re only made once per year (largely because of the labour involved), they’re made in bulk and gifted to friends and family.
What makes this Québécois meat pie festive is the apple cider…and the many spices. While tourtière is served year-round in grocery stores, it is, first and foremost, a traditional part of a Christmas supper in Quebec.
The name may translate to “Monkey’s Tail,” but rest assured that Cola de Mono
contains no primates; rather, it consists of milk flavored with coffee, spices, and a touch of liquor. This year, swap out the usual eggnog in favor of something a little more exotic, a little more Chilean.
While one doesn’t typically think of punch when it comes to Christmas, in Mexico, Ponche
, a warm tropical-fruit punch made with South American winter fruits like apples, oranges and guavas, as well as prunes, raisins, tamarind, walnuts, cinnamon, dark brown sugar, and either rum, brandy or tequila, is the norm. Visit any Mexican Christmas market and you’ll be sure to find vendors merrily selling it on the sidewalk.
Japan: Kentucky Fried Chicken
Turkey in Japan is hard to come by, so they cleverly came up with a replacement: Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC for Christmas is such a hot tradition that celebrating Japanese place their orders as early as October!
It may look milky and sound milky, but cow’s milk isn’t actually an ingredient in Poppy Milk, or Aguonų Pienas.
Rather, the liquid turns a milky color after the poppy seeds, having softened in hot water for a day or so, get crushed with a pestle and mortar until a white liquid is released. After, cold water is added, the seeds are strained, and then they are pounded once again, a process that continues several times. The final step: adding sugar or honey.
In the spirit of serving rich, high-caloric foods at Christmas, Paraguayans make Sopa paraguaya (literally Paraguayan soup) that, like good ol’ cornbread, consists predominantly of corn flour, cheese, and milk. This year, impress your fellow diners by serving up some of this dish in place of regular cornbread.
Fittingly, the traditional Polish starter at Christmas, barszcz
(or beetroot soup with small dumplings), is red and green. The starter is only consumed after the first star is spotted, and like the soup, the rest of a Polish Christmas supper is meat-free.
Česnica (soda bread) is an indispensable part of a Serbian Christmas. The making of the bread entails numerous rules and rituals, and a coin is added to the dough during the kneading to bring health and good luck to whoever finds it in their share. Before making this bread, however, you may want to consider some of the traditional rituals: the flour is taken only from a full sack, the water for the dough is collected from three springs, the person preparing the česnica must bathe before, and the final product must be rotated three times counterclockwise before being broken among family members. Also, a fun tradition to follow is to set three pieces of the bread aside: one for absent relatives, one for a stranger who might join, and one for the polaznik
, their first visitor on Christmas Day.