Eats, Food, Tips

Quick Bites: Christmas Confections

By Chitra Santhinathan

Quick Bites: Christmas Confections

From Australia to Philippines, Christmas is celebrated with cakes inspired by local traditions.

It’s the time of year when fruit cake is everywhere! Fruit cake, however, is not the only star of the festive table, as many communities celebrate Christmas with unique confections of their own. Here are our top picks.

Pavlova (Australia/New Zealand)

Though the origin of this meringue-based cake may be a point of contention, pavlova is, without doubt, the top summertime dessert of Aussies and Kiwis. And, since Christmas falls in summer in the southern hemisphere, pavs are often the crown jewel of festive tables here. Believed to have been created in honour of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s, the ideal pav should possess a crisp outer shell and a soft, marshamallowy centre. Pavs are traditionally decorated with whipped cream, and fresh fruits, which include kiwis, strawberries and passionfruit.

Sugee cake (Malaysia/Singapore)

For the Eurasian communities of Malaysia and Singapore, sugee cake is the crowd favourite at birthdays, weddings and Christmas. The cake’s ingredients are similar to those of a standard butter cake, except for the addition of semolina flour and chopped or ground almonds, which add texture, as well as splashes of brandy for extra flavour. Traditionally, sugee cakes are frosted with royal icing, which consists of egg whites and icing sugar.

Kurisumasu keki (Japan)

Literally meaning Christmas cake, kurisumasu keki is ubiquitous during the festive season in Japan. Though Christians make up only about one per cent of the country’s population, this fluffy sponge cake topped with snow-white whipped cream and ruby red strawberries, is enjoyed by all. According to historians, western-style cakes were once a luxury reserved for the country’s elite. As the nation began to rebuild its economy in the post WWII years, ‘luxury’ ingredients such as sugar, milk, and butter became widely available, thus leading to the creation of this iconic dessert, which is also a symbol of prosperity.

Local Flavour

These festive desserts may not fit the traditional Christmas cake mould but are nonetheless celebrated in Asia.

Bibingka (Philippines)

Consisting of rice flour, coconut milk and eggs, this cake is traditionally cooked in a charcoal-fired oven, and topped with sugar and grated coconut. Bibingka is often served after Simbang Gabi (Christmas Eve mass).

Bebinca (India)

Traditionally consisting of 16 layers, this Goan dessert is painstakingly made, layer by layer, with a batter of coconut milk, egg yolks, flour and ghee (clarified butter). A dash of nutmeg is often added for spice.

Spekkoek (Indonesia)

Also known as lapis legit, this spiced layer cake is made with a batter of butter, flour, milk, and eggs. A legacy from the Dutch colonial era, the cake is popular during Natal (Christmas), and Lebaran (Eid ul-Fitr).

Did You Know?

An English Christmas dinner is incomplete without brandy soaked and dried fruit- filled plum pudding. The dish originates from frumenty – a soup-like combo of preserved fruits and meat flavoured with spices. Traditionally, a token (a coin or ring) was added to the batter and whoever who uncovered this ‘gift’ was considered lucky. Some people still practise this today.

HOT IN YOUR CITY

Bali

TripAdvisor® 2017 award winner Cuca in Jimbaran elevates the casual dining experience with an inspired list of tapas, desserts and cocktails made from locally sourced ingredients. Signatures range from veggie frittata to roasted pork buns, and tasty tipples like Moongria, a combo of white wine, iced fruit and brandy soda, as well as its red wine equivalent – Sun-gria. For a personalised menu based on chef-owner Kevin Cherkas’ interpretations of the day’s ingredients, sample the Chef Tasting Meal. cucaflavor.com

Kuala Lumpur

Sapore serves authentic Italian and Spanish flavours within a cosy setting in Ampang. Signatures include Suckling Pig Porchetta (slow roasted pork) and Iberico Pork Seafood Paella (available every Sunday) dished up by Puglia-born chef Fabio Ruggieri. Besides the sumptuous house specialties, diners can sample tapas, which include slow cooked Iberico Pork Ribs, and a selection of pasta prepared molto al dente (slightly undercooked). Complement your meal with a refreshing housemade sangria, or a glass of exquisite vino from the wine list. facebook.com/saporemy

Melbourne

Enjoy scrumptious Sri Lankan Tamil fare for a good cause with Tamil Feasts, a social enterprise that supports recently settled asylum seekers. These thrice-weekly feasts are served in a community kitchen, and provide employment for the asylum seekers, as well as a chance for them to share their rich culinary heritage and culture with diners. Don’t miss the chance to savour aromatic curries, and traditional Sri Lankan hoppers served with spicy chutneys. Weekly vegan feasts are also available. tamilfeasts.ceres.org.au

Fresh & Fruity

Mountain Fresh Fruit Juices are produced from premium freshly picked Australian fruits that are cold-pressed to maintain their nutritional goodness. Preservative- and sugar-free, this delicious range of juices and juice blends is also high in antioxidants. Popular flavours include Apple & Peach, Apple & Pear, Apple & Mango, Blueberry and Tropical Juice Cocktail. Available at selected retailers in Malaysia. mffj.com.my

 

INFLIGHT DELIGHTS

Open Sesame!

Big on taste and good for you too, Sesame Chicken Wrap is the newest addition to AirAsia’s inflight menu, Santan. The wrap consists of grilled chicken breast, Romaine lettuce, cucumber, red onion, capsicum and cheese, smothered in a homemade sesame dressing and encased within a tortilla. Available onboard Malaysia AirAsia flights and as a pre-book option for all flights under 75 minutes.

A staple of Central American cuisine, tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flatbread made from finely ground maize. Today, tortillas made from wheat flour are commonly used as wraps, and enjoyed with a variety of fillings.

Snack Attack

The next time the munchies strike, get your hands on a container of delicious T&Co’s Tapioca BBQ Chips. Inspired by a traditional snack enjoyed in South Asia, these addictive chips are made from thinly sliced tapioca (cassava) root that are fried to a crisp and seasoned with spices. This product is a collaboration between T&Co and Malaysia’s Ministry of Agriculture in support of the country’s tapioca farmers. Available on-board all Malaysia AirAsia flights. airasia.com

About the Author

Chitra Santhinathan

When she’s not rushing to meet deadlines, Chitra Santhinathan travels to places near and far to break bread with locals and learn about their way of life. She enjoys sharing those experiences in the stories she weaves for travel 3Sixty°.

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