Twelve travel bloggers dish out the best and can’t-miss food during this holiday season. We’ve got you covered from Asia to Europe. Check the list below!
“One thing that is not missing on traditional Slovenian Christmas table is Potica. It’s a baked pastry roll. The closest English word would be nut roll.
“It’s just not Christmas in Portugal without a Bolo Rei (King Cake). This family-sized cake is designed for sharing, and is eaten from Christmas day until Epiphany (Jan. 6). Although the cake originated in France, it’s been a Portuguese festive staple since the 19th century when the monarchy’s official bakery Confeitaria Nacional introduced it.
The Bolo Rei is shaped like a crown – round with a hole in the centre – and bejewelled with chunks of colourful candied fruit. It’s made from soft, brioche-like dough with raisins, nuts and more of that sweet crystallised fruit mixed in. It’s worth trying if you like sweet, bready cakes and aren’t averse to a bit of dried fruit.
If you bite into a slice and find a dried fava bean, don’t demand your money back – unfortunately it’s supposed to be there. According to tradition, whoever finds the bean has to pay for next year’s Bolo Rei.
Other variations include the Bolo Rainha (Queen Cake), topped with nuts instead of fruit. You can also buy Bolo Rei by the slice from Pastelarias (Portuguese cake shops) during the festive season, just in case you’ve got a craving for it, but don’t want to buy a massive one.” – Jemma Porter from Portugalist
“The UK rarely tops the lists for best cuisine but when it comes to holiday food, few things are as good as a mince pie.
Don’t let the name put you off: mince pies don’t contain any meat, although traditional recipes do contain suet. Prior to that, they did actually contain minced meat. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. These days, these delicacies are made from pastry, dried fruits, and spices – a combination that just tastes like Christmas.
Although the origins of the mince pie are unknown, some historians believe that they may have been brought back from the Middle East along with the spices that the British explorers went in search of. The mince pie has had a turbulent history: they were banned during the English civil war and the Puritans were vehemently opposed to them due to their Catholic connections. Thankfully, they managed to survive persecution, and are one of the top British Christmas delicacies today.
Mince pies are often served with a dollop of cream, although this is not essential. They’re a fantastic accompaniment to coffee, although many people like to enjoy them with a glass of port, sherry, or brandy.” -James Cave from Worldwide Shopping Guide
“Bibingka or rice cake is a Filipino delicacy commonly sold during the Misa De Gallo or Simbang Gabi in the Philippines. You will see side street vendors selling this native Filipino snack near churches to mass-goers for breakfast. If you’re to attend a Miss de Gallo or Midnight Mass in the Philippines, you will likely see locals carrying freshly cooked bibingka wrapped in plastic or on banana leaves on their way to church or upon going home.
The traditional bibingka is made out of rice flour, milk, eggs, and sugar. It is cooked in a clay pot lined with pre-cut banana leaf. This mode of cooking has heavily added to the bibingka’s mouth-watering aroma.
Like most traditional food, there are several variety of bibingka sold in the market, depending on where you are in the Philippines.
Despite the variations, bibingka has long been prepared by the Filipinos way back the arrival of the Spaniards in the archipelago. It can also be noted that there are references to this kind of rice cake among other Southeast Asian countries.
Bibingka is best eaten warm and can easily fill a hungry stomach, making it a favorite Filipino treat! If you want an authentic Filipino Christmas tradition, having one or two of this cakes will do the trick!” -Marvi Ocampo from Osmiva
“For millions of Jews around the world, the winter holiday of Hanukkah represents a time for
gathering family and friends to relax, play, and eat. Though the holiday is culturally important, it’s
actually the commemoration of an ancient military victory in Israel, after which a small amount of
oil miraculously kept the Temple’s ritual lamp burning for eight days rather than the expected
one day. Jews honor the victory of the ragtag Israelite army and the miracle of the oil lasting by
eating food that are fried in oil! While the best known of these is latkes, the sweetest (and a
perennial favorite in Israel) are sufganiyot. Sufganiyot are essentially a donut, often filled with
jelly or custard, and then topped with powdered sugar. So if you visit Israel in December, don’t
be surprised if you notice the aroma of donuts wafting through the air out of every home and
bakery! Just make sure you dive in and try one, and make sure it’s fresh out of the fryer.” -Melissa Conn from The Family Voyage
Lebkuchen are baked on a thin, white, edible wafer called oblaten that always reminds me of a Communion wafer. As it turns out, that’s because the 13th Century German monks who invented Lebkuchen in Nuremberg used larger, unconsecrated hosts to structure the cakes and keep the dough from sticking to the baking surface.
The cake itself can range from sweet (also known as Honigkuchen or honey cake) to spicy (also known as Pfefferkuchen or peppercake). Typical ingredients include some combination of:
- honey or molasses,
- spices (like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger, and cardamom),
- nuts (like almonds or hazelnuts), and
- candied fruit (like dried apricots or candied lemon peel).
Lebkuchen is usually finished off by being dipped in a glaze or dark chocolate.
In the country that invented the Christmas tree and is the setting for the Nutcracker Ballet, no Christmas would be complete without soft, sweet, and spicy Lebkuchen! They are available at every bakery and every Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in Germany throughout the holiday season.” -Sage Scott from Everyday Wanderer
“The Christmas dinner on Dec. 24 is likely the most lavish dish of all the year in Slovakia. It starts with special wafers with honey, nuts, and garlic (yes, garlic!) and ends with a filling potato salad with fish, however, its heart, as it often does, lies in the soup. Kapustnica, the typical Slovak Christmas dish, is made of sour cabbage, cream, smoked meat, sausage, and prunes and is as hearty and rich in flavor as it sounds. While soups are a favourite classic of Slovak cuisine and kapustnica can be prepared at other times of the year, adding prunes and several different kinds of meat is what makes this dish truly Christmassy.” -Karin from Girl Astray
“A small town called Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York, just north of Albany, has a tradition of a holiday candy being made, the Peppermint Pig. This holiday candy started in the 1880’s. Pigs are honoured in Victorian holiday tradition, and so the Peppermint Pig has become a similar symbol of good health and fortune. The Peppermint Pig is exactly as it sounds. It is a pink pig, standing 3 inches tall, and 6 inches long, made purely out of peppermint candy. It is hefty, weighing half a pound. Each pig comes with its own red velvet bag, and a small metal hammer. Our tradition with the peppermint pig has been that on New Year’s Eve, we place the pig in the bag, then it gets passed around to everyone, each person taking a whack at the pig with the metal hammer. Good luck follows everyone who partakes in eating the peppermint pig pieces afterward! We discovered this tradition after moving to upstate New York several years ago. Our local candy shop carries them. We have loved having our Peppermint Pig every year, and take it to whatever NYE party we are attending, so we can spread the joy and the luck!“ -Jillian Greenawalt from Greenawaltstravel
“Being in an Italian family we never go through the Christmas season without panettone! Panettone is an Italian sweet bread or brioche, shaped like a tall dome. It originated in Milan, but can be found and enjoyed throughout Italy! The traditional panettone contains candied orange and lime peels, dried raisins and lemon zest. Today, you can find panettone with chocolate chips(a family favorite), figs and chocolate, orange and chocolate and more. We may be biased being part Italian, but we love having panettone because the bread is so soft and delicious with the candied fruit or chocolate inside. It is not overly sweet and is perfect in the morning with coffee. In the United States, you can find panettone almost anywhere now, including Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Trader Joes and World Market.” -Christina and Adam from Our Sweet Adventures
“Churchkhela is a candle-shaped traditional Georgian sweet/candy made from nuts, grape must, and flour. There’s two type of Churchkhela in Georgia – Western and Eastern. Western one calls for hazelnut and a white grape must, while the other one contains walnuts and red grape juice. The preparation is as follows: first, the nuts are fried and threaded onto a string and let dry for some days. Later, these strings are dipped in thickened grape must and hang again for drying for weeks.
The taste of it is quite sweet and very fulfilling. Locals sometimes even call it Georgian Sneakers bar as it’s a natural supplement to get energy during travels, especially when hiking or camping. If stored properly, it could last for months.” -Baia Dzagnidze from Red Fedora Diary
“Meat filled cabbage rolls – Sarmale – are a staple in Romanian cuisine. They are a traditional food that pops up every time there’s something to celebrate: wedding, baptism, funeral, and of course, holidays. Therefore, Christmas makes no exception and Sarmale will, inevitably, show up on the table.
Sarmale are direct descendants of “Sarma”, which originated in the Ottoman Empire. As they spread in Europe and the Balkans, sarma came with them and made an appearance in the local cuisines. Known as Dolmades in Greece and Töltött Káposzta in Hungary, they take different shapes in different countries.
Sarmale take a long time to make. First, you need pickled cabbage. That’s what you’ll wrap them in. You also need minced pork meat (for the traditional ones), white rice, onions, salt, pepper, and oil. When it comes to condiments, it’s mostly “to each its own” but typically thyme is added.
In a pan, heat the oil and add the minced meat, rice, and onion, together with some salt, pepper, and thyme. Fry it a bit then add a cup of water and let it cook about 10-15 minutes. Let it cool down and then start wrapping them. You can also cut some cabbage (as for a salad, but bigger) to put at the bottom of the pot and at the top. The rolls are arranged around the edges of the pot , leaving the middle empty. That’s where you add 2-3 cups of water. Time to boil them. It can take anything from an hour to 2-3 hours. You can then toss them in the oven for a lovely finish.
In some parts of the country, tomato paste is added to the meat mixture and in the cut cabbage. Also, bay leaves may be used. There’s also a lent variety which uses mushrooms instead of meat.” -Cris Puscas from LooknWalk
Which of these have you tried or would love to try? Comment below!