There’s something wonderful about December – the festive cheer, the holidays and most importantly, Christmas! In India, Christmas is celebrated with as much fervour as any other festival in the country. Streets come alive with Christmas lights, homes are aglow with a family Christmas tree and fairy lights. But most importantly, it’s all about the food. Indian Christians may have inherited the traditional roast goose and turkey culinary customs, but have transformed them into something inherently desi. Here’s how Christmas is celebrated through food, in a country of multi-ethnicities and an amalgamation of cultures.
1. The Anglo Indian Christmas Affair
Traditional Poultry Roast at an Anglo-Indian home
A Christmas day at an Anglo Indian home usually begins with a breakfast of bacon, ham and eggs. There’s also toast, jam and fresh juice for fillers. At lunch, a lavish spread consisting of biryani, either spice roast potatoes or stir fried potatoes and one traditionally stuffed and roasted poultry dish – turkey or chicken or quail.
Anglo-Indian family gatherings are always a lot of fun, there’s a special tradition at family parties which involve drinks and plates of salted beef. The salted beef is a dry strip of meat that’s usually marinated in jaggery, salt and whole garam masala a week before Christmas. Come Christmas day, the meat is removed from its marinade and sliced thinly. No household is complete without dessert!
A Christmas special Marzipan in the Ango-Indian home
The Anglo Indian community enjoys its share of Christmas cake and plum pudding (complete with brandy, nutmeg and other spices). In the evening, there’s a spread of marzipan, kulkuls or sugar glazed curls and rose cookies. There’s enough food to last till Easter!
2. The Big Fat Goan Christmas
Homemade Chorizo at a Goan home
Like their Anglo-Indian counterparts, Goans are also big on kulkuls and marzipan. A colourful array of sweets greets every little child on Christmas day in a Goan household. The smell of baked goods fill the house, there are delights like boros or coconut based sweets, neurios or crescent shaped pastry shells that burst into an explosion of coconut and jaggery when you bite into them.
There is also a special jelly called the dodol and is made with coconut milk, rice flour, jaggery and cardamom powder. It’s consistency is almost halwa-like. For a traditional Goan Christmas dinner, there’s a feast befitting a royal household: Chorizo – a spicy pork sausage that is made at home with in-house spices and cured pork meat, salami, minced meat, potato chops, xacuti – a complex curry dish that uses either lamb or chicken, swimming in a thick gravy of pungent spices primarily consisting of poppy seeds, coconut milk and red chillies.
A delicious serving of Pork Sorpotel in a Goan home
There’s also the presence of sorpotel – a spicy pork dish cooked in red chillies, garlic, vinegar and other spices. It’s best eaten with sannas – similar to idli but tastes rather different! And if you thought you were done, well you’re sure to be wrong. No Christmas dinner at a Goan home is complete without the bibinca, a multi layered cake made with coconut milk, sugar, nutmeg and flour. Our friend, the Christmas cake also makes a cameo here in the very end – a cake stuffed with lovely brandy-drenched fruit. Finally, it is all washed down with a classic homemade wine.
3. A Stunning Syrian-Christian Christmas
A delicious duck curry, savoured with lacy appams at a Syrian-Christian home in Kerala
Down south in Kerala, there is a different kind of Christmas being celebrated. Grandmothers gather around their kitchens to make a delicious duck roast or a duck curry/chicken curry. It’s a common practice for some families to rear their own poultry. There’s also the presence of a glorious, thick beef stew that’s simmered in its own flavours and the grand beef roast.
Yummy Fish Moilee!
Of course there’s the grand Christmas cake in all it’s brandy flavoured glory, but the piece de resistance is always the fish moilee or fish curry that’s cooked up in a storm of coconut milk and spices, served with fluffy appams. For sides, there’s always a demand for vegetables that are stir fried in coconut oil and spices, sometimes garnished with either fresh coconut or dessicated coconut and a huge serving of egg roast too. The entire meal is finished with a glass of wine.
Their neighbours in Mangalore offer a silky, sweet-savoury stewed pork known as pork indad as the centrepiece of their Christmas meal. For sweets, there’s rice cookies and deep fried rice marbles soaked in sugar syrup.
4. The Eclectic East Indian Christmas
Fudge Milk Creams for dessert at a Goan household
East Indian Christians are traditionally a Marathi speaking community settled in Mumbai and along the coastlines of the Konkan region – Daman, Diu, Vasai. Their traditions are a mix of customs from Maharashtrian, Portuguese and Anglo-Indian. This shows in their hodgepodge of culinary delicacies.
The East Indian table bears the delicious weight of potato chops, croquettes or cutlets that are both meat and vegetable based, mince and chicken khudi – a spicy, piquant curry made using their legendary ‘Bottle Masala’. It is best eaten with the fugeas or little round shaped breads made with eggs and all purpose flour. Many of the East Indian dishes rely on the ‘Bottle Masala’ to gain their fiery, pungent tastes.
East Indian Chicken Curry: The Khudi Curry!
Like their Goan counterparts, the East Indian Christian community is also known for their selection of sweet treats. A traditional dessert spread sees the presence of neurios, boros, rose cookies and sweet drenched date rolls. There are also other delicacies like the fudge, milk creams – a confectionery that’s flavoured with milk, cashews and vanilla; and the quintessential rekejaos – a delicate sweet treat that is made with almonds and sugar.
So there you have it! Which of these Christmas traditions speak out most to you? Leave a comment below and let us know what dishes make the feature spread at your family’s table. Additionally, if you’re away from home and miss the Christmas festivities, simply fire up the Swiggy app and order in. We’ll bring the food, you bring the tree!