15 International Holiday Delicacies Americans Should Serve
Fruitcake and eggnog may be the two biggest culinary indicators that the holiday season has arrived in the United States, but make your way beyond the American border and you’ll find a smorgasbord of international holiday delicacies just waiting to delight your family and friends.
Where you’ll find it: Israel
Though they originated in Israel, sufganiyot can now be readily found in Jewish communities around the world, particularly during Hanukkah, and it’s easy to understand why: Deep-fried jelly doughnuts are delicious in just about any language.
Where you’ll find it: Italy
Delicious and auspicious! Italians ring in the New Year—better known to them as St. Sylvester’s Feast—with the promise of a prosperous start. They give that wishful thinking a little nudge by cooking up a pot of lentils, as the legume symbolizes wealth and prosperity.
3. BÛCHE DE NOËL
Where you’ll find it: France
Translated as “branch of Christmas,” the bûche de Noël is a decadent holiday dessert that’s fashioned to resemble a Yule log. The most common kind is a yellow sponge cake topped with chocolate buttercream, but there are dozens of different cake and frosting combos out there (including chestnut, which is one of the more traditional flavors).
4. BYREK ME KUNGULL DHE ARRE
Where you’ll find it: Albania
Typically cooked on Christmas Eve, this classic Albanian pie is made of pumpkin and walnuts, giving it both sweet and savory elements, and is usually served as a side dish.
5. MINCE PIES
Where you’ll find it: England
A holiday staple in England since the 13th century, mince pies have evolved from their meat-filled early days into a more straightforward sweet that’s stuffed with dried fruits and spices. It’s also a favorite snack of Father Christmas, especially when left with a small glass of sherry (the U.K. equivalent of milk and cookies).
Where you’ll find it: Canada
There’s no standard flavor for this traditional meat pie, which sees its recipe change with the region. The pie’s filling depends on an area’s specific delicacies, which could mean pork, beef, or rabbit in an inland location and salmon around coastal towns. It’s most popular between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
Where you’ll find it: Greece
There isn’t much to melomakarona, the holiday cookie that's a staple on Christmas Day tables throughout Greece—it is simply dipped in honey and rolled in walnuts. But recent years have brought some forward-thinking tweaks to this long-popular treat, including a dark chocolate coating. Sometimes, simple is best.
8. ROMERITOS WITH MOLE
Where you’ll find it: Mexico
This ancient Mexican dish is a Christmastime tradition, partly because of the growing season of its base ingredient. The romerito—which looks like rosemary but tastes like spinach—is freshest in December and again during Lent. In this dish it’s served up with dried shrimp patties and topped with mole sauce.
9. SAFFRON BUNS
Where you’ll find it: Sweden
December 13th is St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden, and with it comes a host of holiday traditions, both culinary and otherwise. It’s on this day that the oldest daughter in a family will dress in a white gown and red sash while wearing a crown of lit candles to awaken her parents with some piping hot coffee and a tray of saffron buns.
10. MUSHROOM SOUP WITH ZAPRASHKA
Where you’ll find it: Russia
The food never seems to end on Russia’s Holy Night—January 6—when a full 12-course menu is served. While the lineup of dishes can change from household to household, mushroom soup with zaprashka, a thickening roux, is usually the first to leave the kitchen.
11. SPICED HOT CHOCOLATE
Where you’ll find it: Peru
Global culinary influences abound in Peru during the holiday season, where one of the most classic pairings is a slice of Panetón (candied fruit-filled sweet bread from Italy) and a cup of spiced hot chocolate, which is typically made by melting a bar of bittersweet chocolate with condensed milk and then spicing it with cloves and cinnamon.
Where you’ll find it: Ukraine
The holiday powers-that-be don’t mess around in Ukraine, where a rather lengthy set of restrictions dictates what people can and cannot eat during the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no chance for indulgence. On Christmas Eve, dinner calls for a total of 12 courses, beginning with this honey-soaked grain pudding dish.
13. DEVIL’S CURRY
Where you’ll find it: Singapore
As practical as it is delicious, Devil’s Curry is served up on Boxing Day (December 26) and makes great use of several holiday leftovers including chicken, sausage, cabbage, and cucumbers, all of which are stewed in a spicy gravy.
Where you’ll find it: Belgium
This brioche-like bread is otherwise known as “Bread of Jesus,” and it’s shaped to resemble a baby Jesus, swaddling clothes and all.
15. JANSSON’S TEMPTATION
Where you’ll find it: Sweden
Though there’s some debate over how this casserole got its name—some believe it was named after famed 19th century opera singer Pelle Janzon—there’s no disagreement on whether or not it deserves a place at the holiday table. This creamy mix of potatoes, herring, and breadcrumbs can be found at just about any Swedish household’s holiday festivities.