As Christmas draws nearer and the realisation that I won’t be at home with my family sets in, I figured there’s one thing that’ll definitely make it feel like Christmas, and that’s Christmas Dinner! A big white bird with all the trimmings, I’m talking roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, broccoli, carrots, cranberry sauce, gravy and of course the most essential item… A good ol’ Yorkshire pudding!
When I started my quest to find the perfect traditional Christmas dinner in Bali, I was completely naive to the fact that what I was actually looking for was a traditional ENGLISH Christmas dinner. Who knew there’s a huge variant in Christmas dinners around the world. Not me, so I did some research, and this is what I found…
In Japan, all they want for Christmas is Kentucky Fried Chicken! It’s so popular over the festive season that the chain takes party orders up to two months in advance, complete with cake and champagne! It’s a national tradition that dates back to an insanely successful advertising campaign in 1974, which convinced the Japanese that Westerners celebrated Christmas with a ‘chicken dinner’. The slogan was ‘Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!’ meaning ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’ According to KFC, total sales for December 23, 24 and 25 typically equal half its normal monthly sales.
Pork Vindaloo is served with pride in every Christian home in Goa at Christmas, New Year and Easter. It’s influenced by the Portuguese dish ‘carne de vinha d’ alhos’ which is usually made by cooking pork in wine and garlic. But the Goan’s adapted the dish and now use malt vinegar instead of wine, hence the term ‘Vindaloo’ (Vin for wine, and aloo for potatoes) Unlike an English vindaloo it’s not a fiery hot dish, nor it is a curry. It’s mild and tangy and is more of a pickled pork dish, usually served with bread and rice.
This predominantly Catholic country has some of the best Christmas celebrations in Asia, which begin on 16th December. After the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the main meal called ‘Nocha Buena‘ is served family style and consists of a dozen or more dishes including roasted pig or cured ham as the centre-piece, as well as Edam cheese and oxtail soup.
On Christmas Eve the traditional Swedish Smörgåsbord is served, which is a buffet consisting of cold and warm dishes. Jansson’s Temptation is a standard dish in this Julbord and is basically potato gratin flavoured with pickled sprats or anchovies. The taste is meant to be ‘creamy with a hint of the ocean’. The recipe dates back to the forties, and is said to have been named after the famous Swedish opera singer, Pelle Janzon.
This might not come as much of a surprise but it’s very common for Aussies to light up the barbie on Christmas day and cook steak or seafood. An Australian Christmas tradition is the Christmas damper, a soda bread in the shape of a wreath, and dinner is often concluded with a yummy pavlova, which is meringue topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
Contrary to popular belief, Christmas is celebrated in some middle eastern countries. In total there are over 10 millions Christians living in the Middle East, mostly in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. Christmas dinner varies by country, but popular dishes include hummus, baba ghannouj, spinach fatayer, stuffed grape leaves, roast turkey with pomegranate stuffing, cous cous and more.
After Christmas dinner, many Indonesians enjoy ‘klappertaart‘, a Dutch influenced dessert which literally means ‘coconut cake’ or ‘coconut tart’. This pudding made from coconut, flour, sugar, milk, butter and eggs is said to have been influenced by the Dutch occupation of Manado in North Sulawesi. It can be cooked in several different ways and some locals say it’s best eaten cold.
So, whether I’ll be devouring lobster fresh from the barbie, or tucking into a vindaloo, this year Christmas dinner will most certainly be different. So long as the table is cleared by 3pm and we’re perched around the TV for the Queen’s speech, there will still be something very British about this Christmas.