How Christmas in South Asia is celebrated with Food

Christmas in South Asia is a wonderful occasion for families to gather together and enjoy a sumptuous feast. DESIblitz presents some tasty Desi Christmas treats from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Christmas Desserts

There can never be a Sri Lankan fruitcake without spiced chow chow

South Asia holds many communities of Christians who celebrate Christmas each year.

All across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Christmas remains a joyous season and the food is to die for.

DESIblitz takes a look at some traditions and Desi Christmas desserts for you to try yourself.

Celebrating Christmas in South Asia

On Christmas Day families gather together to exchange gifts with each other and their friends.

Many small communities will attend church, sing hymns and pray. After returning home, they enjoy a family meal together and sing Christmas carols.

Christmas is widely recognised in South Asian culture. Over the years, more and more non-Christians join the festivities, just as they do in the West.

They cook desserts and send gifts to their neighbours. Many get involved to have fun and be part of the seasonal joy.

Desi Christmas Desserts

Fruitcakes are a speciality across South Asia. DESIblitz has found four culturally tailored fruitcake recipes from across Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Eating pudding on Christmas Day for breakfast is a unified tradition across South Asia. Each country has their own version of a spiced fruitcake and bread puddings.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the seasonal fruitcake is cooked with chow chow, a preserved pumpkin delicacy which is combined with various fruits and nuts.

There can never be a Sri Lankan fruitcake without spiced chow chow. Followed by chunky wholesome banana cake. Cooked with whole-wheat flour, cashew nuts and nutmeg. This cake is truly a seasonal miracle.

How about some aromatic bread? Kneaded with hints of thyme, rosemary and oregano. Just imagine the scent of herbs surrounding you on Christmas morning.

Try this incredible Sri Lankan Christmas Cake recipe here.

India

Dried plums are used to make spicy and sweet fruitcakes in India. Special ingredients such as nutmeg and cinnamon are added to the recipe to enhance the flavours.

Hands up for cookies? There are plenty to go around on Christmas morning; each house has their own special recipe that has been passed down through generations. From butter cookies to our all favourite masala cookies.

Also known as Khara biscuit; baked with cumin seeds, chillies and curry leaves.

Try this recipe from Archana’s Kitchen here.

Pakistan

Pakistan has a unique bread pudding which is called the ‘Shahi Tukra’ and a recipe dating back to royalty.

This Mughal worthy pudding is cooked with ricotta, saffron and nuts. A dessert bursting with flavour.

Try this recipe that uses condensed milk here.

That’s not all, for added joy, there is a spiced flatbread known as ‘sheermal’. Made with notes of saffron and milk. Sheermal is a round light and fluffy flatbread.

Bangladesh

Pithas are meant for the big festive occasions. There is no Christmas without a table full of traditional pitha prepared by our loving mothers and aunties.

One of the popular pitha is colloquially called ‘gurar handesh’ and is meant as a dessert. It is made overnight with a mixture of rice flour, molasses, and self-raising flour. The mixture is added to steaming oil in small amounts to form round shapes.

Other types of pitha are also carefully made, such as; gokul pitha, bhapa pitha and patishapta pitha.

Each looks elegant and come in different shapes. Some resemble white cupcakes and rolled up crepes. They are often deep fried and enjoyed with warm chai.

Patishapta Pitha Recipe

Now, for a special recipe – we bring to you ‘patishapta pitha’ by Lalita Chakraborty.

Ingredients:

  • Oil
  • Plain flour (1 cup)
  • Semolina (1/2 cup)
  • Rice flour (1/4 cup)
  • Milk (2 cups)
  • Grated coconut (3 cups)
  • White sugar (2 Tbsp)
  • 3-4 green cardamoms

Method for filling:

  1. Take a wok or frying pan and mix coconut, milk with sugar
  2. Add cardamoms and stir
  3. Keep stirring the mixture until sticky. This will take 15-20 minutes
  4. Remove from heat and leave aside to cool

Method for patishapta:

  1. Take a bowl. Add semolina and flour.
  2. Mix the content with milk.
  3. Leave the mixture aside for half an hour
  4. Take a pan, add enough oil just cover the base of the pan
  5. Pour in a small amount of mixture and cover the pan (like a pancake)
  6. Place the mixture in the middle until brown
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Fold the patishapta twice

To be served hot or cold

Christmas is not just a tradition in the West. Indeed, South Asia has a long history of this joyous festival, especially when it comes to food.

Try something new this Christmas with these delicious Desi cakes and bread puddings.

Rez is a marketing graduate who loves to write crime fiction. A curious individual with a heart of lion. She has a passion for 19th-century sci-fi literature, superhero movies and comics. Her motto: “Never give up on your dreams.”

Images courtesy of Archana's Kitchen, BanglaRrannaghor YouTube, Nestle Milkmaid YouTube, and NDTV Food


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