Christmas Food in South America
Think of Christmas dinner and no doubt a huge turkey with plenty of veg, a tasty stuffing and of course the all-important roast potatoes will probably spring to mind. But have you ever wondered what delicious treats are piled on plates across South America on the big day? Being a continent so rich and varied in its landscape, cultural influences and climate, the selection of food that is consumed over the festive period is diverse and full of flavour. While the usual roasted meats are popular, there are certain yuletide favourites that are essential items in the South American household come Christmas. Let us get you in the festive mood as we delve into some traditional Christmas food in South America.
Tamales are eaten across South America all year round but especially at Christmas. Preparing the tamales themselves can be a real family affair, often with the recipe being passed down through the generations. For many people, biting into one of these will bring back childhood memories in an instant. A dough made from maize is placed on top of either a corn husk or banana leaf, depending on where you are, and then the filling is added. This can range from any number of things: succulent slow roasted meats, fish, potato and cheese or even a sweet filling in some cases. Once they are wrapped in the outer coating they will be steamed until the dough is cooked through and a deliciously moist treat is revealed within – bon appetit!
How about ditching the bacon butties and digging into some rabanadas instead? Traditionally served as a dessert in Brazil, they would also make a great decadent breakfast! Thick slices of stale bread are quickly dipped in egg, followed by sugar and cinnamon; the flavour is similar to French toast but the texture is different, thanks to the type of bread used. Sweet, crispy on the outside, soft and gooey in the middle, what’s not to love?!
Natilla and Buñuelos
If it’s Christmas Eve in Colombia then you can be sure there will be Natilla and Buñuelos aplenty, with some hot chocolate to wash it all down. The Buñuelos are sweet balls with a consistency similar to a doughnut, but with the added extra of white cheese, deep fried until golden, some people serve them with a dusting of sugar giving them a perfect balance of sweet and salty. Alongside the Buñuelos you can expect to find some Natilla, a custard-like dessert sometimes so thick it can be sliced much like a European egg custard tart; divine.
Head down to Argentina for Christmas and at some stage you are likely to tuck into some Pionono. You may notice that it is similar to the Pan de Jamón that is loved in Venezuela, though this version comes in both sweet and savoury options. A spongey dough is wrapped around all kinds of goodies, rather like a swiss roll. Fillings are versatile but can include ham, tuna, cheese or egg along with salad and a generous helping of mayonnaise. If you always turn to the dessert menu first when eating in a restaurant, then you will love the dulce de leche versions!
Canelazo and Naranjillazo
After all this food, no doubt you will be looking for something to wash it all down with. If you are lucky enough to be in Ecuador over the holidays, why not warm your cockles with some Canelazo or Naranjillazo. These hot alcoholic drinks are spiced with cinnamon and topped with Aguardiente – so make sure you take it easy! The Naranjillazo also has the addition of juice from a naranjilla, a local orange fruit. Whichever one you opt for, when the cooler nights set in, a couple of these will certainly help take the chill from your bones.
Christmas Cakes in South America
Of course, Christmas is not Christmas without a cake. While panettone is popular throughout the continent, there are also Christmas cakes particular to certain countries. Chile, for example, favours Pan de Pascua, the complete opposite in many ways to the light and fluffy panettone, as Pan de Pascua is a heavy cake filled with dried fruit, nuts and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. If you speak Spanish, you will notice that the translation of this is actually ‘Easter bread’; but trust us, if you are in Chile for Christmas this is what you can expect to find on your dessert plate. On the other hand, if you fancy a biscuit over a cake, then nibble on some alfajores. These are well loved in most South American countries and are made up of super sweet dulce de leche sandwiched between two cookies; yummy!
Inspired? Why not continue the festive theme and check out our blog ‘Christmas Festivities, tradition and tinsel in South America’, or have a browse of our South America template itineraries to start tailormaking your own trip!