Fed up of the same Christmas food every year? Why not mix it up and go international with a few of your festive dishes in 2018? We’ve done some research for you and found some truly mouthwatering traditional Christmas food from around the world that is relatively simple to make yourself at home or buy in stores… Some dishes you may have already have heard of, some you probably haven’t and some may just surprise you (Japan, we’re looking at you)!
1. Feast of The Seven Fishes (Italy)
This tradition originated in Southern Italy, where it is known as La Vigilia (The Vigil) to commemorate the time of waiting for baby Jesus to be born at midnight. In Italy, the Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day for this very reason, unlike in the UK. The feast is fish-based because Roman Catholics abstain from eating meat the day before a feast day. This feast is also a tradition in Italian-American families, thanks to their Italian ancestors that emigrated to the US decades ago. The Feast Of The Seven Fishes doesn’t have a set menu, but one of the most popular dishes to eat are baccalà (salted cod) and spaghetti with clams.
Find out more about this feast at Bon Appetit.
2. Stollen (Germany)
Stollen has become quite commonplace in the UK recently and has almost become a British traditional Christmas food, thanks to the popularity of German Christmas Markets in almost every citt these days! It’s a dense, sweet bread filled with nuts, spices and dried fruit, then finished with a dusting of icing sugar. The German’s love their national Christmas bread so much, they hold an annual Stollen Parade in Dresden each December, where a giant Stollen is paraded through the city centre before it is cut up and sold to raise money for charity!
Stollen can keep for many months, as long as it is kept covered or in a food tub in a cool, dark place, such as a kitchen cupboard or drawer. This means that you can continue to enjoy your Stollen leftovers long after Christmas is over! You can find a great Stollen recipe by Jamie Oliver here.
3. Risalamande (Denmark)
Risalamande is essentially a posh rice pudding originating in the 19th Century, which is served cold after the main meal on Christmas Eve. It is made using by adding whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds to a traditional rice pudding, then finishing it off with a cherry sauce. The Danes have a tradition whereby the cook will hide one whole almond in the Risalamande, and whoever finds it in their serving will win a present! Everybody has to keep eating until the almond is found, regardless of how full they are… Find a great recipe for Risalamande at Daring Gourmet.
4. KFC (Japan)
Yes, you did read that correctly. Although not strictly a traditional Christmas food, Kentucky Fried Chicken has become a must-have Christmas meal for millions of people in Japan. There is a very small Christian population the Buddhist country, so Christmas is not celebrated widely and is not a public holiday. However, the masterminds at KFC ran very successful Christmas campaigns that started back in the 70’s, with advertising messages such as ‘At Christmas, you eat chicken’ and ‘Kentucky for Christmas’, which were based around the western tradition of eating turkey and other poultry for their main festive meal. It is estimated that 3.6 million people in the country now eat KFC at Christmas, which means that you have to book your table months in advance in order to get a seat on Christmas Day! Luckily there is no recipe needed for you to follow with this one – just head down to your nearest restaurant branch!
5. Gourmetten (Netherlands)
Gourmetten is a way of cooking that involves grilling small pieces of meat on a tabletop grill in the centre of the table. Many Dutch families have gourmetten as their main Christmas meal, as it eliminates any stress of making sure that you cook the perfect meal – as the guests are cooking it themselves! We know that most Brits would never dream of abandoning their Christmas Roast Dinner in favour of grilling small bits of meat, but how about making it a fantastic stress-free dinner to have on Christmas Eve?
6. Buñuelos (Columbia)
This South American traditional Christmas food is a sweet and savoury cheese fritter ball that is made to be served alongside hot drinks at Christmas. They’re relatively easy to make and are a great party snack to have on hand right up until the new Year. They’re also very moreish, as the Columbian variety of buñuelos are mainly savoury, with only a slight dusting of sugar giving them sweetness, so it’s difficult to get sick of them! We’ve found a great recipe at The Spruce Eats.
7. Sarma (Croatia)
Sarma are Croatian stuffed cabbage rolls that are kind of like healthier versions of Chinese spring rolls. The cabbage leaves are rolled up and filled with mincemeat, rice and lots of delicious flavours including paprika and garlic. Instead of being deep-fried, Sarmas are cooked by simmering in a sauce flavoured with onion, tomato and sauerkraut. Check out a great Sarma recipe at Chasing The Donkey.
8. Christopsomo (Greece)
Christopsomo can be literally translated as ‘bread of Christ’ and is made from a dough enriched with milk, sugar, eggs, butter and mixed peel. The thing that sets it apart from other sweet breads are the decorations that you can adorn it with. Traditionally you decorate the bread with a simple cross which represents Christ, but you can go off-piste if you so wish. We’ve found an authentic recipe by Lemon And Olives for you to try.
9. Barszcz (Poland)
In Poland, the Christmas Eve meal must not contain any meat for religious reasons. Barszcz is a meatless version of the popular beetroot soup found in many Eastern European countries, and is instead packed full of root vegetables and served with bread to soak up the broth. It is often also served with mushroom filled dumplings, just like this recipe from Polish Your Kitchen.
10. Pasteles (Puerto Rico)
Pasteles are similar to tamales, consisting of a pork filling that is encased in masa dough and boiled with a banana leaf until cooked through. Pasteles are very time consuming to make, many Puerto Rican families make this traditional Christmas food in huge quantities in the run up to the big day, so that they also have plenty left over to enjoy right up until Easter! The best recipe we’ve found comes from The Spruce Eats.