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Celebrate the festive season with foods from around the world

Food is the cornerstone of the festive season. Picture: Pexels/Nicole Michalou

Food is the cornerstone of the festive season. Picture: Pexels/Nicole Michalou

Published Nov 23, 2021


Food is the cornerstone of the festive season. It brings friends and family together to share memories, cultural traditions and great flavours.

What would the festive season be without the taste of turkey and the smell of sweet treats baking in the oven? Work up an appetite and get inspired with this short tour of festive season food from around the world.

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And if you are looking for something a little different this year, why not incorporate some of these foods into your own holiday dinner or have them as treats throughout the holiday season?

We have supplied a recipe for the mince pie, and if keen on whipping up the other foods too, you can click on that Google search button.

Here are five unique holiday foods enjoyed around the world.

Butter tarts – Canada

Although Canadians typically celebrate the holiday season with similar dishes to the US, they do have a few holiday classics of their own. Butter tarts are a dessert with a sweet filling made of butter, sugar, maple syrup and eggs. They are sometimes made with walnuts and raisins.

Spiced hot chocolate – Peru

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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 is made with chocolate, condensed or evaporated milk, and a combination of spices, such as cinnamon, chilli powder, cloves and nutmeg.

In fact, this beverage is so popular that it has its own event known as la Chocolatadas, during which people gather and serve spiced hot chocolate with a popular cake known as panetón.

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Pavlova – New Zealand

Named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, there is a debate over the possibility that pavlova was invented after or during the ballerina’s tour in New Zealand and Australia in 1926.

One story goes that a chef at a hotel in Wellington came up with the cream and berries dessert. Then in 1927, a recipe for jelly-like pavlova appeared in a New Zealand cookbook, but it is the later recipes that describe how to make the version that is known today.

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Australia enjoys pavlova at Christmas time, too, and has a similar story about the dessert being created by an Australian chef. While the concept of pavlova has been traced to other countries, in 2010 the Oxford English Dictionary settled this argument between New Zealand and Australia by listing that the Kiwis have the first recorded recipe of this dish. New Zealand’s pavlova is topped with whipped cream and kiwi fruit or summer berries.

Udon noodle soup – Japan

It is believed that udon noodles were first brought to Japan from China in the 800s by Buddhist monks. Udon noodles, made from wheat flour, are thick and chewy. They can be served in a variety of ways: cold or hot, with sauce or stir-fried. Its neutral flavour matches well with a variety of ingredients.

In Japan’s cold winter months, hot udon noodle soup is a popular comfort food. If you want to eat your udon the traditional way, do not forget to use chopsticks, and you can show your appreciation with an enthusiastic slurping sound.

Mince pie - England

Also known as mincemeat or Christmas pie, the mince pie is a widely popular and historical holiday dessert. Despite its name, most modern mincemeat pies are meatless.

Traditionally, mince pies were made of shredded beef or mutton, suet, dried fruit, and spices. However, most varieties today simply consist of pastry dough, dried apples and raisins, distilled spirits, vegetable shortening, and a spice mixture containing nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.

Interestingly, the pies used to be oblongly shaped to represent a manger, although most mince pies served today are circular.

Labarang mince pie


30ml oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1kg steak mince

6 whole cloves

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 allspice (pimento)

Salt to taste

15ml freshly ground peppercorns or fine black pepper

125ml sago, soaked

1 cup water for 30 minutes

2 packets ready-made puff pastry or home-made pastry

4 hard-boiled eggs, grated

1 egg, beaten


Heat the oil in a pot on medium to high heat, then add the onion and sauté until golden brown. Add the steak mince, cloves, garlic, and spices. Stir and fry for 10 minutes, then add 250ml water and cook on medium heat. Stir when needed until the water has cooked away.

Add the soaked sago with the water and stir. Cook for 30 minutes on medium to low heat, stirring when needed.

Transfer the cooked mince mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool. Remove all the whole spices. Cover with a cloth and place in the fridge to cool down completely.

Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry to about 3mm thick and use it to line the bottom of a greased oven roasting pan. Spoon in the filling and top with the grated boiled eggs. Roll out the second sheet of pastry until it is large enough to cover the mince filling completely, pressing the edges down with a fork. Brush the top with egg wash and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

The recipe is taken from the Cape, Curry, and Koesisters cookbook by Fatima and Gadija Sydow.

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