Monkey’s Tail, White Christmas and Other Holiday Delights
Christmas is just around the corner. For many families, the day just doesn’t feel right without the traditional foods and beverages that they associate with this special day. Some of these recipes are handed down from generation to generation.
For instance, if you’re invited to celebrate Christmas with a family in Chile, you might get the chance to taste great granddad’s Monkey’s Tail recipe.
Yes, but please rest assured no monkeys were harmed in the preparation of this traditional Chilean Christmas beverage. The locals call this drink cola de mono which translates literally to monkey’s tail. There are probably as many ways to prepare this drink as there are families in Chile, possibly more. The basic ingredients usually involve milk, sugar, coffee, cloves and a potent distilled spirit called aguardiente. If great granddad had a heavy hand with this fiery water, you would be wise to limit your consumption of this holiday treat.
Although Christmas arrives as summer is shifting into overdrive in Australia, that doesn’t keep some Australian families from enjoying a White Christmas or two.
OK, we’ll concede that many children and adults find it impossible to stop at two. After all, this Australian holiday dessert is pretty tasty. The most common recipe calls for raisins, candied cherries, desiccated coconut, confectioner’s sugar, powdered milk, hydrogenated coconut oil and rice bubbles.
Absolutely! It’s not a White Christmas without rice bubbles. Our friends Down Under think we’re rather odd for calling them Rice Krispies. After all, if you take a moment to look at them they do seem to have bubbles.
Making a pan of White Christmas is easy. You just mix together the proper quantities of raisins, candied cherries, desiccated coconut, confectioner’s sugar, powdered milk and rice bubbles. Yes, each family recipe uses different quantities of these dry ingredients. Then, you melt your hydrogenated coconut oil and mix it in with the dry ingredients. Pour this sweet concoction into a pan and pop the pan into the fridge for a while to set. After that, all you have to do is cut it into squares and enjoy your White Christmas. Clever blokes, those Aussies.
While Australians often celebrate Christmas Day with warm weather, the thermometer can be pretty frosty in Sweden when the holiday season arrives. While Australians might decide to lay out in the sun on Christmas, many Swedish families lay out Julbord, a massive holiday smorgasbord. One of the dishes you’re likely to discover on the table is called Janssons frestelse or “Jansson’s Temptation.”
This curiously named casserole is made using potatoes, onions, pickled sprats (a small fish), bread crumbs and cream. Made properly, this dish actually doesn’t taste fishy. It is a smooth and creamy potato gratin topped with crispy breadcrumbs with just a hint of salty and sweet seafood flavor.
Unfortunately, many English recipes for this Swedish dish suffer from a translation error. The Swedish word ansjovis ends up being translated as anchovies. The actual Swedish word for anchovies is sardeller. Ansjovis, in Swedish, means pickled sprats. If you use anchovies (or, for that matter, sardines) to make your Jannson’s Temptation you will end up with a fish casserole that tastes nothing like what you find at a Julbord in a Swedish home on Christmas Day. Resist the temptation to use anchovies.
While we’re on the topic of temptations, this is a good spot to mention one of West Africa’s most tempting holiday dishes. If you’re traveling around West Africa during the holiday season you will probably have the opportunity to sample some fine jollof rice recipes. In that time you will learn that each nation in that region believes a holiday table is incomplete without this classic dish, that no nation (or family) prepares it the same way and that each nation is absolutely sure their way of preparing jollof is undeniably the best way.
As an example of this jollof obsession, earlier this year Sister Deborah, a Ghanaian singer released a song called “Ghana Jollof” which includes the following lyrics, “Ghana jollof, Ghana jollof, Ghana jollof – yummy! Nigerian jollof is just funny.” I’m not sure how well this song sold in Nigeria.
The essential ingredients of this red-orange rice dish consist of rice, tomatoes, onions and chili peppers. While most West African families can agree on those basic four ingredients, everything else regarding jollof rice is up for grabs. Some jollof versions contain lamb, some contain goat, beef or possibly corned beef. Vegetables? Sure. Some recipes mention peas, some add bell peppers, some add carrots to the mix. You might find shrimp in some bowls of jollof rice. In others, you might find fish. There are even debates on what type of rice to use and whether it should be cooked outdoors and whether you should cook it over firewood or charcoal and whether using an iron pot is essential.
The debates may seem endless but that is only because the possibilities of this tasty comfort food are nearly infinite. Try as many variations as you possibly can. Jollof is often surprising and almost always delicious. Yes, Sister Deborah, even Nigerian jollof.
Our final stop on this whirlwind world tour takes us to Japan. At first glance this might seem like an odd choice. Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. In fact, it is estimated that only one percent of the population practices Christianity. Under those circumstances you would not expect the Japanese to have a traditional Christmas dish.
That said, about 3.6 million Japanese families are expected to order their favorite Christmas meal this year. The demand for this dish is so great that some families placed their order as early as October. What Christmas dish could possibly inspire such a frenzy?
Believe it or not, it is the Christmas Party Barrel at KFC. Yes, dining with the Colonel has become a holiday tradition in Japan.
To understand how this happened we have to journey back to the 1970s. That’s when some folks at KFC Japan noticed that westerners who couldn’t find their favorite holiday bird in Japan were opting for buckets of KFC’s chicken.
In 1974, they launched a marketing campaign based around the slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” which I’m told translates to “Kentucky for Christmas!” in English. It also translated into a massive revenue boost for KFC Japan.
Before long, people were waiting in line for as long as two hours on Christmas Day to pick up their buckets of fried chicken and KFC was taking reservations for buckets up to two months in advance. Seeing the opportunity to make a good thing even better, KFC Japan invented the Christmas Party Barrel. This is no ordinary bucket of fried chicken!
Available in a variety of sizes, the Christmas Party Barrel has a series of layers. These layers include festive holiday plates, KFC Original Recipe chicken, salad, ice cream and a bottle of wine. Some larger barrels might include cake and even champagne. When you roll out the Christmas Party Barrel, you’re rolling out Japan’s favorite Christmas meal. To continue with the holiday theme many KFCs in Japan have a statue of Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus.
We hope this quick tour of various holiday delights throughout the world has been entertaining and has perhaps inspired a few ideas for your next holiday feast. Although the celebrations of the season may lead many of us to pack on a few extra pounds, you can be sure we’ll be here to help you shed those pounds and more when 2017 arrives.
If you haven’t been to our site recently, you may want to check out our New Products page for a delicious variety of new selections to make next year’s healthy eating plan a little more festive and a lot more delicious.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time to visit with us. Our entire team wishes you and yours the warmest holiday greetings for whichever December holidays you choose to celebrate. We hope to see you again soon.