5 of the most bizarre Christmas dishes from around the world
Apparently the people of Norway will be tucking into sheep's head next week...
In the UK, a traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings is a festive staple. Just like cracker hats and egg nog — it's happening, right? But Christmas food traditions around the world look a little different from the humble turkey.
In Norway, the preferred meat is smoked sheep's head. And in Japan, KFC is really popular at this time of year. Who knew!
If anyone's opting for a "Turducken" this Christmas — a dish consisting of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, further stuffed into a deboned turkey — wherever you are in the world, that might be raising a few eyebrows. And don't even get us started on sprouts.
With this in mind, we have taken it upon ourselves to select the most bonkers Christmas dishes from Germany to Russia and back again. If we missed any, please let us know.
Smalahove – Norway
Households across Norway will be serving up Smalahove, a traditional dish made from a sheep's head, which is traditionally eaten just before Christmas. The name of the dish comes from the combination of the Norwegian words hove (meaning head) and smale (sheep), which makes sense to us: Smalahove literally means 'sheep head'.
There is a traditional way to cook smalahove. Families will remove the brains and leave the head to soak in a pot of water for 24 hours, then create a brine and leave for a further 24 hours, and then finally they will boil it.
It's typically served with mashed potatoes and rutabaga (swede) and looks exactly how you'd imagine a boiled sheep's head on a plate to look like.
Dressed herring – Russia
Dressed herring, colloquially known as "herring under a fur coat", is a Russian layered salad popular at Christmas time. It's made up of diced pickled herring covered with layers of grated boiled vegetables, chopped onions, and mayonnaise. Some variations include a layer of fresh grated apple depending on how adventurous the chef is feeling.
It is believed to have been invented by a tavern owner called Anastas Bogomilov at the beginning of the 20th century. The red colour of the beetroot symbolises the Russian flag, and potatoes represent the staple food of peasants and workers in the country over the years.
It also goes by the name of 'Shuba' and 'Selyodka pod Shuboy', but we prefer 'herring under a fur coat', simply because it sounds sillier.
KFC – Japan
From December 1974, KFC Japan began to promote fried chicken as a Christmas meal, and its long running "Kentucky for Christmas" advertising campaign is still a thing today.
Eating KFC food as a Christmas time meal is a widely practised custom in Japan. Word on the street is it was first inspired by the UK's own traditional turkey dinner. Why? Well back in the 1970s and (to a certain extent) still today, turkey is virtually impossible to find in Japan.
So when Japan’s expat population couldn’t get their hands on the bird come December '74, Colonel Sanders dutifully stepped in with the next best thing: finger lickin' fried chicken! And so the slogan, ‘kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!’ or ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’ was born.
Mopane: Fried worms – South Africa
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Fried worms, or more specifically fried Emperor Moth or Mopane caterpillars, are considered a tasty traditional Christmas finger food in South Africa.
The Mopane “worm” is of the Gonimbrasia belina species and an important protein source in parts of Africa, and the annual harvest season tends to line up with Christmas. While most of the harvest will be dried or otherwise preserved for the winter, fresh grubs are fried for the holidays. Locally it continues to spilt a room — many cherish it as a delicacy while others dismiss it as bush meat.
We have to say the jury is not out on this one for us. Tell us, could Mopane worm its way on to your Christmas dinner table? Yes, we did that.
Plum devils – Germany
Humphrey Muleba from Pexels
Wander around any Christmas market in Dresden, Germany and you will find Pflaumentoffel or "plum devils", which are small chimney sweeps made our of prunes.
They have been a Christmas tradition in the area for decades, and today you can find more than 350 different figures are available — ranging from naked prune men and ones playing pianos, to kissing couples and the more traditional chimney sweeps.
The figures are nine to 22 centimetres high and always handmade with dried prunes acting as the arms and legs; figs make up the body and walnuts are used for the head. We get the impression they are to be admired from a far rather than gobbled, but the option is there.