Musement tours the table and compares 15 traditional Christmas dishes shared around the world.
It’s no question that discovering the gastronomic culture of a country is an integral part of any trip. Sometimes, sending our taste buds on a voyage is an excellent way to satisfy our wanderlust. We’ve already shared Christmas desserts from around the world, so this year, we decided to compile a list of 15 dishes typically enjoyed abroad during the Christmas season.
Those with little knowledge of French or French cuisine might think that Hangikjöt comes from “gigot” or “animal thigh” in French. However, the word actually means “hung meat” in Icelandic — Hangikjöt is indeed a leg of boiled sheep or lamb that’s sliced and served with peas and béchamel potatoes.
The staple of many Mexican festivals, tamales cornflour rolls twist-wrapped on both ends and steamed in corn or banana leaves. They can be garnished with meat or prepared vegetarian.
Janssons frestelse almost sounds like the name of a storyteller but no, this is a potato and sprat gratin found on dinner tables in Sweden. This culinary specialty is also part of Finnish culture.
As you might imagine, a Christmas table in Portugal wouldn’t be complete without salt cod. Bacalhau cozido is a dish made with cod, cabbage, potatoes and eggs, all boiled in water, a bit like the French aïoli without the garlic- and oil-based sauce. Delicious, light and healthy.
In the wake of controversies over the ex-stars of French holiday cuisine, foie gras and oysters, scallops are surely one magical Christmas ingredient that everyone in France can still agree on.
Ukrainians pull out all the stops when it comes time for Christmas dinner, serving twelve dishes to represent the 12 apostles. The first, <3m>kutia, is a boiled wheat pudding with honey, poppy seeds and nuts.
Come Christmastime in Brazil, it’s your call whether the main course will include turkey or bacalhau, salted and dried codfish. In any case, one or the other is typically served with farofa temperada, a medley of cassava root with pineapple or raisins, black olives and bacon, among others, and salpicao, traditional chicken salad.
For a typical meal with atypical timing, visit Japan where, despite all the wonderful meals to be had, sharing a bucket of fried chicken at KFC has been a Christmas Eve custom since 1974 marketing campaign.
For Canadians at Christmas, the tourtière often finds a place on the dinner table. This is a rich and tasty meat pie that began in Quebec and spread to other provinces as well as New England.
As in Ukraine, it’s also a tradition to concoct 12 dishes for Christmas dinner in nearby Poland, all meat-free. A staple is barszczkarp w galarecie (jelly karp).
In Italy, holiday meals vary from one region to another. At the southern tip of the peninsula, for example, the New Year’s Eve meal is made up of dishes composed of fish: pasta with anchovies, spaghetti with clams, and in Naples, the famous capitone (eel!). In contrast, fresh pasta (cappelletti, tortellini and agnolini) is always on the Christmas table in Emilia-Romagna.
In Germany, the traditional Christmas roast is not turkey, capon or ham, but weihnachtsgans, or goose. Sometimes stuffed, this meal is almost always served with red cabbage and apples.
In Peru, it’s traditional to enjoy roasted pork, often suckling pig, as well as arroz arabe a traditional dish of rice, angel hair noodles and raisins often complemented by any other ingredients the cook wants to add.
A grand classic of Russian cuisine, unmistakable for the holidays, koulibiac is originally composed of layers of salmon, meat, eggs, mushrooms and rice, all wrapped in a puff pastry.
Escudella i carn d’olla, or just Escudella, is a popular culinary specialty enjoyed by Catalonian families on December 25. Similar to the French pot-au-feu stew, it’s generally relished in two steps. Start with the escudella, or pasta typically stuffed with meatballs and soaked in a broth. After theescudella, you can proceed with the carn d’olla, or meat paired with beans and vegetables.