It’s that time of the year again. Christmas trees are decorated, gifts are piling up, the aroma of mulled wine fills the air. And, of course, the running around starts getting more intense. Last minute present shopping, but, most of all, something that cannot really be done too much in advance, grocery shopping.
For many families, Christmas dinner is the only time of the year when everyone comes together. Whether the gathering is big or small, everything has to be perfect, form starters to desert, but the main course takes the spotlight. For those wondering what other people might enjoy on this special occasion, Chef’s Pencil went on a quest to find out what the most Christmas dishes around the world are.
Turkey, pork and seafood are the basis for the most main Christmas dishes around the world, with variations in preparation, followed by poultry, goat and beef.
When you think of turkey, especially in the US, your mind probably immediately goes to Thanksgiving, but the big bird is also popular for Christmas. The US, Canada, as well as a large part of South America, including Chile, Paraguay, El Salvador and Peru, all celebrate Christmas with a roast turkey, which, Chef’s Pencil says, is “not surprising since turkeys were first domesticated by the Aztecs and the Mayas at least 900 years before Christ”.
The bird is also popular across the pond, with variations of roast turkey, accompanied by different sides and stuffing, is the main dish for Christmas dinner in the UK, Ireland, France and even Greece, where it took over as centrepiece, replacing the more traditional pork in the late 19th century.
Pork-based dishes are by far the most popular Christmas dishes around the world, and that’s without counting the pork stuffed cabbage rolls traditional in Eastern Europe.
The options are only limited by imagination. Spain and Cuba have roast suckling pig, Mexico has a chili paste covered pork joint, Sweden serves ham, Norway prefers ribs, while Moldova adds pork sausages next to the roast and the examples just jeep on going.
Carp and cod are the two types of fish traditionally served in Europe, from Portugal to Central Europe. For Australians however, the food of choice is grilled shrimps.
4. Stuffed rolls
Stuffed cabbage or vine leaves rolls are a central part of Christmas cuisine in many countries in Eastern Europe. They are usually filled with pork, but Germany has a version of the dish which is filled with beef.
Tamales are essential across Central and South America. The corn dough (masa) is filled with different stuffings, including chicken and pork, before being wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk and steamed.
6. Duck and goose
“Duck isn’t widely consumed at Christmas, but there’s one country where it’s adored, so we include it on our list!”, explains Chef’s Pencil, adding that they couldn’t ignore the fact that for 3 out of 4 people in Denmark, the Christmas dinner is simply incomplete without duck. While for Germany and Austria, fish is the main dish for Christmas Eve, goose is the choice for the actual Christmas Day.
For Christmas in Ethiopia, a slow cooked chicken stew is prepared. In Malta, families save the biggest rooster to be roasted with potatoes and other vegetables for the special dinner.
Vitel thoné is a dish exclusively prepared for Christmas in Argentina, consisting of sliced veal topped with a tuna and anchovies sauce. Uruguay also has beef cuts for the occasion.