Asian-Style Christmas

I come from the Philippines, where the –ber months mark the beginning of the Christmas season.  Carols are played. Star-shaped lanterns are on display. And, all the gift shopping begins in September. While this dominantly Catholic country celebrates Christmas in full force, what happens in the rest of Asia? Are there clever Asian inspired dishes hitting the tables on Christmas eve?

Western tables are laden with traditional baked ham and roast turkey.  The Filipinos have the lechon, as centrepiece to their Christmas table. The slow-roasted pig is served with gravy made from liver, vinegar, garlic and pepper. The crisp skin is most coveted.  

In the Lion City, trust the Singaporeans to make the Roast Turkey their own style.  The clever chefs at the Goodwood Park Hotel have been making their signature Hainanese Turkey with Chicken Rice balls since 2007. It has been such a hit, that this Asian-style turkey is back by popular demand every year.  The bird is poached for two hours in a superior chicken stock filled with spring onions, pandan leaves, ginger and secret condiments.  It is served with twelve Hainanese rice balls and typical condiments that go with this Singapore favourite dish: dark soy sauce, chilli and minced ginger.  This centrepiece can serve twelve to sixteen people.  

Goodwood Park Hotel’s Hainanese Turkey with Rice balls, chilli sauce, sweet soy sauce, and ginger

For Asians who can’t be without their noodles, the new innovation of the Goodwood chefs for this year is Baked Boneless turkey stuffed with Shanghai Noodles (see photo above).  Carving the turkey reveals wok-fried springy Shanghai noodles, shredded pork, and cabbage, good to feed eight to ten persons.  

While gift giving is huge during the Christmas holidays, the Chinese often give red packets known has Hong Bao in Mandarin or Lai See in Cantonese or Ang Pao in Hokkien during their holidays. The red envelopes are filled with money, often given away during Chinese New Year, but very much welcome during this holiday season, too.  Enterprising companies in Hong Kong have pushed the envelope further. Two companies aggressively selling gift ideas in a box are Red Packet and TaDa!

The modern red envelopes come in a box!

Both companies offer various gift themes ranging from pampering, exploration, and of course our favourite dining. While opening a box isn’t as exciting as breaking the gift wrapper to reveal the present, I must say the options are enticing.  Red Packet options range from lunch at restaurants or wine and cheese tasting, but my favourite dining gift idea is the Cruise on Aqua Luna Chinese Junk serving a Japanese meal from Aqua Tokyo on the Hong Kong Harbour.  TaDa! lets you choose from private champagne blind tasting for four to six people, afternoon tea or chocolate and wine pairing class among its many food gift options. 

Only a few days left until Christmas, whether you will be giving gifts or a Hong Bao, eating baked ham or a Hainanese turkey, Asian Palate wishes you a delicious holiday!  

Text by Maida Pineda.  Photos courtesy of Goodwood Park Hotel and TaDa!