5 unusual alternatives for Christmas

When it comes to Christmas dinner in the western world, things are fairly predictable. A roasted turkey with potatoes (roasted, boiled and mashed), winter vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and if you’re lucky, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon, for the uninitiated)! Obviously there are variations, the meat tends to be poultry turkey the favourite, but chicken, wood pigeon and goose may be used, with the really extravagant and culinary crafty stuffing one inside the other.

Although Christmas is a tradition ever more widely practised, that is not say the Christmas roast is always the centre piece of the festive food. Here are five variations from around the globe that may, or may not, have you leaving that big ol’ bird in the freezer this year…

1. Sweden – Lutefisk

The lutefisk is served as part of the julbord (Christmas smorgasboard) on Christmas Eve. Lutefisk is a white-fish translating roughly as lye-fish and is served boiled with white gravy. While that doesn’t sound too off-putting one should know that lutefisk is essentially made from air-dried salted white fish. The texture is gelatinous, never the most appetising term, and its scent is described in two words – strong and pungent.

2. Norway – Lamb’s Head

The classic Norwegian Christmas lunch also features lutefisk, but traditionally has the centrepiece of salted, dried and smoked lamb’s ribs. Sounds good. These are then rehydrated and steamed over birch branches. Occasionally though, there is an addition to the ribs – the head is served too. It’s boiled, salted and consumed from front to back. The tongue and eye muscles are considered the choicest cuts.

3. Bulgaria – 12 Month Meal

It is traditional in Bulgaria to cook a Christmas meal that represents the whole year past. This is done by serving 12; yes count them, 12 dishes. Each course represents a single month of the year. Unbelievably, to any non-vegetarian at least, is that in these monthly themed plates there isn’t a smidgeon of meat. Instead they consist of nuts, dried plum, pastries and cakes. Walnuts are particularly important as each guest has to break one to discover their fate for the coming year.

4. Czech Republic – Carp

This is another fish alternative to the roasted meat option, this time from the Czech Republic. Fried Carp is at the centre with a side order of potato salad. The accompanying salad is a rich mixture of potato cooked in its skin, peas from a can, onions, carrots, parsley, celery, pickled gherkins, cooked eggs and mayonnaise. Prepared the day before, these salads vary from family to family and are left to ‘mellow’ before they are served during the big day.

5. Japan – Kentucky Fried Chicken

Staggering, but true, the Japanese like nothing better than getting KFC for Christmas. In Japan eating turkey is virtually unheard of, hence this has created a tradition, nay craze, come the festive season. Such is its popularity that orders are placed up to two months in advance and many KFC restaurants allow patrons to reserve tables.
There you have it, five Christmas dinner alternatives that will see you never complaining about Brussels sprouts again. That is unless you’re the adventurous type, the one person who’s always willing to try that something which is a little more unusual…

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