Christmas in Asia
While Christmas is of course a Christian tradition and many Asian countries have only a tiny Christian popularity, it is still widely celebrated across the continent. Interestingly, Christmas traditions in Asian countries are often far removed from the cosy Turkey dinner that is the norm in the Western world. Here are a few countries with their very own quirky Christmas traditions.
Christmas itself is not an important holiday in the Japanese calendar, but Christmas dinner has become something of a legend. All across Japan, people cue for hours, or order weeks in advance to secure their Christmas dinner... A KFC Christmas Bucket. This tradition started after a group of foreigners decided to eat fried chicken instead of their usual turkey when visiting Japan. KFC capitalised on this with a massive marketing campaign, pushing KFC chicken as a must-have over the festive season. The idea took off with the local population and Christmas is now synonymous with finger lickin' fried chicken.
Korea has a relatively large Christian population (30%) meaning that the holiday is widely observed, even by those who aren't Christian. While Christmas is traditionally viewed as a time to spend with the entire family, Christmas in Korea is viewed as a romantic couple's holiday and the streets are full of young people strolling hand in hand admiring the Christmas lights that decorate churches and shops. Santa Claus may also make an appearance, but is often dressed in a blue outfit, as well as a more traditional red suit.
Singapore celebrates the festive season with a six-week Christmas festival called 'Christmas in the Tropics' where the emphasis is on shopping, with stunning light displays adorning the streets of the best shopping areas in Singapore.
Christmas is one of the four major festivals in Vietnam, and many of the holiday traditions are quite similar to those observed in France, due to the influence of the French occupation on Vietnamese culture. Nativity scenes are common and many people congregate in cathedrals and churches to participate in a Christmas mass. In terms of food, the bûche de Noël (a log-shaped chocolate cake) is a popular French Christmas dessert which is also widely enjoyed in Vietnam.
Why not enjoy Christmas with an Asian twist this year by whipping up some Asian favourites to add to your holiday spread? Check out our range of Asian spice pastes
and get cooking!
Banchan - Korean Small Dishes
At Korean restaurants, tables are usually provided with small plates called "banchan" alongside their main meal and bowls of rice. These complimentary portions of food are shared between everyone at a table, unlike the individual bowls of rice and soup. Fortunately, most restaurants refill banchan. The variety of banchan provided by restaurants varies between restaurants, but several small plates appear consistently.
Jangajji is a term for pickled vegetables, most commonly daikon or garlic. It is believed that pickling in Korean culture originated from the need to preserve vegetable rations in winter. Slices of dried or salted vegetables are left to marinate or pickle in Korean soy sauce, chili paste, or vinegar. They are then seasoned with sesame oil or sesame seeds to serve as banchan. Other possible pickled vegetables include cucumber, onion and mint leaves.
Namul, or muchim, refers to seasoned vegetables in Korean cuisine and essentially any vegetable can be used to create the small plate. There isn't one specific seasoning used in namul, but sesame oil, chili paste and vinegar are often preferred. The vegetables can also be blanched, steamed or fermented before the seasoning process. Popular vegetables to prepare as namul include bean sprouts, eggplant and spinach.
Jorim describes braised vegetables, meat and tofu in a sauce. To cook the small plate, the ingredients are left to simmer in a thick broth. The sauce can vary between different recipes, but soy sauce is generally added in jorim dishes. Jorim with lotus roots is an interesting take on the banchan, as it creates a sweet hint to counter the pungent taste of soy sauce. Other variations of jorim are dubu jorim - a braised tofu dish - and algamja jorim - a sweet and savoury dish of braised baby potatoes.
Bokkeum is a Korean small plate of stir-fried vegetables or meat, served in a thick sauce. Bokkeum can be made with seafood, mushrooms, beef or even offal. The dish can also be enjoyed with Korean-styled fried rice, called bokkeumbap. Myeolchi bokkeum, or dried stir-fried anchovies, makes the dish perfect for a salty snack before the main course!
Though less flavourful than other Korean small plates, jeon is just as tasty. Jeon refers to savoury pancakes made of a variety of ingredients, including seafood, mushrooms and even buckwheat. Although they are usually served as a savoury dish, they can be made sweet with the addition of mung bean or sweet potato. Jeon is mostly considered to be banchan, but is also eaten as an appetiser before the main meal.
One of the most famous delicacies to originate from Korea is kimchi, a dish of fermented and seasoned vegetables. The vegetables are marinated in a ginger, garlic, sugar, daikon and a plethora of strongly flavoured ingredients. People are most familiar with the cabbage kimchi, or baechu kimchi, which can be bought pre-prepared in a small container. However, there are plenty of other kimchi variations that often go unappreciated, such as daikon kimchi and water radish kimchi. Kimchi is best served with a meal of rice and meat, but can be combined with anything to balance out its spicy sourness.
Asian Home Gourmet's NEW Stir Fry Sauces
Asian Home Gourmet has taken convenience to a whole new level, with a brand new range of irresistibly authentic stir fry sauces. This new product has been specially designed to make cooking your favourite Asian dishes at home easier than ever.
1. Select your desired sauce
Choose from our range of chef-designed, authentic stir fry sauces:
• Sauce for Vietnamese Spicy Beef Salad: Create flavourful Vietnamese salads with this zesty savoury sauce with a twist of lemongrass and garlic with an appetising sour kick.
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• Stir fry sauce for Thai Pad Thai: Skip the takeaway and make this Thai favourite at home using a balanced combination of subtle spicy flavours.
• Stir Fry sauce for Malaysian Sambal: You'll fall in love with this dish with its sweet and spicy South East Asian sauce with a tangy lemongrass aftertaste.
2. Prepare the meat and vegetables
Follow the simple instructions on the back of your pack to prepare the fresh ingredients. Save time by only preparing the parts of your meal that need to be fresh (like the meat and vegetables). Plus, reduce the stress and mess of home cooking by eliminating the need to carefully measure out the right quantities of each and every spice.
3. Pour your stir fry sauce over your ingredients
Allow the stir fry sauce to infuse your meal with perfectly balanced flavours. Impress your friends and family with meals that taste amazing every single time.
These delicious sauces will be available in stores across Europe and the US soon. Watch this space!