From stuffed carp to carved radishes via a bucket of KFC, Christmas food means different things to different people
Your Christmas might revolve around one giant turkey, some sprouts and a pile of roast spuds, but around the world things are done very differently. If you thought a sauce made of bread and setting fire to a pudding were slighty off-the-wall then prepare to be amazed.
Fried chicken in Japan
Not being a Christian country and all, it might come as someting of a surprise that Japan has its own Christmas traditions. In the 70s when Western expats started clucking for festive turkey, it's thought KFC employees passed on the memo. In 1974 the company ran a "Kentucky for Christmas" campaign which was so wildly successful it made it the official cuisine of the season. Orders are placed in early December and it's not cheap either: a "party barrel" (aka a bucket of chicken) will set you back a cool £25.
Stuffed carp in Poland
Christmas eve supper in Poland (delightfully named Wigilia) is quite the production. Bread is broken at dusk when the first star is spotted in the sky, and the banquet is then consumed. Traditionally no red meat is eaten at the meal so you're likely to find carp in some form on your Polish Christmas table.
Other traditional dishes include herring in cream sauce, and soup (beetroot, mushroom, or fish) with sauerkraut and poppy seed cake. Traditionalists also always set an extra empty place at the table for any unexpected guests.
Puto bumbong in the Phillipines
This dish is as colourful as its name, and we can't stop looking at it! It's made from ground rice coloured with purple yam powder, cooked by steaming in bamboo tubes and served with grated coconut and sugar. Due to its Hispanic heritage, the country celebrates noche buena on Christmas eve and puto bumbong is one of the most sought-after dishes on the menu.
Potato temptation in Sweden
In our humble opinion, one of the standout dishes of a Swedish Christmas is Janssons Frestelse (literally "Jansson's temptation"), a creamy potato gratin with anchovies, onions and a crispy top that's somehow much more than the sum of its parts. There is much debate in Scandanavia over who Janssen was but we can certainly understand why he was tempted. Cook it the Swedish way, here.
The seasonal version of a Swedish smörgåsbord is called a julbord (ie Yule table). It generally involves five courses. The first would be a variation on pickled fish, potatoes and crackers. The second, cold cuts with sausages and pickles and the third hot dishes such as meatballs and the Janssen's Temptation. Rounding it all off are cheeses and desserts.
Radish people in Mexico
Our friends over in Oaxaca, Mexico like nothing better than to ring Christmas in by whittling a few radishes.
The annual "Day and Night of the Radishes" festival is held every Christmas eve and features nativity scenes and biblical stories carved out of the purple root. Many of them are pretty impressive.
After the whittling is done people settle down to a traditional feast that usually includes a turkey and a whole bunch of crazy salads. This one, called Ensalada de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve salad), is made with a host of exciting ingredients like beetroot, oranges and jicama (the Mexican potato / yam.)