Eat and Be Merry

Traditional Christmas food from the archipelago

Like any other religious celebration in Indonesia, Christmas has been assimilated into our local culture to create a unique festivity. However, the celebrations have taken a more Western approach in recent years, with roast turkey and cranberry sauce a common sight on the dining tables of many. Here are some of the more traditional Christmas feasts that you can find in Indonesia.

A number of staple dishes in a Christmas feast in Ambon include Nasi Pulut Unti, Ikan Kuah Kuning (yellow fish soup) and Papeda (sago porridge). Despite its relatively unknown status, Nasi Pulut Unti is a must-have item for Christmas.

The people of Manado – known as Minahasans – love spicy food. It’s no wonder that their signature Rica-Rica (meat or fish topped with chilli) is part of their Christmas feast. Besides Rica-Rica, a common Christmas dish in Manado would include canine meat, which is known as RW – short for rintek wuuk. It is believed that dogs are guardians of the human souls, which is why they serve the dish for Christmas.

Arsik, a signature Batak fish dish, is seen as a symbol of celebration, and it is also part of the Christmas feast for the Batak people. They also have a penchant for pork, so expect to see grilled pork on the dining table if you happen to visit your Bataknese friends on Christmas Day.

There’s a sense of guilt creeping in the back of my mind as I write about the trademark Christmas dish for the Chinese Peranakan people. Ayam Kodok, which literally means “chicken and frog”, is actually a prominent dish for Christmas dinner, and as someone of Peranakan heritage, I never knew about the existence of such a dish up until a couple of years ago when I saw my aunt cooking up one for dinner. Oddly, no frogs are used for the dish; instead, what you get is a whole chicken that goes through several cooking methods, including deboning, the sewing up of its skin, stuffing, steaming, and roasting. It may look similar to a roast turkey, but it is richer in taste.

Started her career as a food writer in 2012, Jessicha Valentina is the online editor of Good Indonesian Food. Jessicha has loved Sayur Asem since she was a wee kid and spends her free time trying to cook it.

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