Unique holiday foods from around the world
Food is the cornerstone of the holiday season. It brings friends and family together to share memories, cultural traditions, and great flavors.
From figgy pudding to fruit cake, many foods bring on the holiday cheer. Depending on where you live, foods that are considered a normal part of the holiday feast to some may seem downright strange to others. Here are a few unique holiday foods from around the world.
Buche de Noel, France: Also known as Yule Log, buche de Noel is a sweet dessert served in France during the Christmas season. Though there are many variations, one of the most common types is made with heavy cream cocoa powder, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. It’s commonly decorated with icing sugar and fruit. Buche de Noel commemorates the tradition of cutting and burning a specially selected log known as the Yule log.
Shuba, Russia: While most countries celebrate Christmas on December 25th, Russia is one of the few countries that celebrates this holiday on January 7th in accordance with the Orthodox Julian calendar. Colloquially known as “herring under a fur coat,” shuba is a popular dish served during the holiday season in Russia. Its main ingredients include pickled herring, hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, and grated vegetables, such as carrots, beets, potatoes, and onions. The dish gets its name from its top layer, which is usually made of mayonnaise or a beet dressing that resembles a warm winter coat.
Yebeg wot, Ethiopia: Similar to Ethiopia’s national dish, doro wat (chicken stew), yebeg wot is a popular lamb stew served during the holiday season. Weeks prior to the holidays, farmers feed lambs a high calorie diet. This leads to fatty, tender meat, which is added to a stew made of onions, tomatoes, garlic, kibbeh (Ethiopian butter), berbere spice mix, and various spices. Many serve yebeg wot with injera, a popular flatbread.
Spiced hot chocolate, Peru: If you think you know how to make the best hot chocolate, you may want to give Peru’s spiced hot chocolate a try. This creamy hot chocolate with a kick is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, and nutmeg. Locals like to serve it with a popular cake known as Paneton.
Bibingka, Philippines: During the holiday season, bibingka is a common breakfast item in the Philippines. Bibingka consists of a rice flour or sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar, and water wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Eggs, cheese, and coconut flakes are sometimes added as a garnish. This dish is usually served for breakfast or after Simgang Gabi, a nine-day series of Filipino Catholic masses leading up to Christmas. It’s common to have food stations set up outside of churches so churchgoers can buy bibingka and other popular sweets.
Hangikjot, Iceland: Served during Christmas, hangikjot is one of the most popular Icelandic holiday foods. It translates to “hung meat” and involves smoked lamb or mutton. Its name originates from the traditional practice of hanging smoked meats in a smoking shed for weeks to develop a smoky, salty flavor. Hangikjot is commonly served with green beans, potatoes that are coated in a white bechamel sauce, and a side of pickled red cabbage.
Pasteles, Puerto Rico: Pasteles are a classic Christmas dish in Puerto Rico. Making pasteles requires time and patience. The inner portion of the pasteles consists of a mixture of ground pork and an adobo blended spice sauce. The outer portion is made using a special mass dough made of grated green bananas, yautia, and spices. After allowing the dough to sit for a few hours, the masa is placed on banana leaves, the pork filling is added, and it’s wrapped. Traditional Puertorican pasteles are boiled in hot water and served with rice, meat, fish, pigeon peas, and a hot sauce for a delicious holiday feast.