Sunday, December 25, 2005

And So The Feasting Begins

If I really were a goose, I'd be a prime candidate for foie gras right now. As of 23 December, I've been eating just about non-stop, living up to my blogging moniker and then some. That night, my cousins -- bless their greedy hearts -- decided that they would start a new tradition: The Gourmet Christmas Dinner. On the menu was an appetiser of foie gras terraine laid on a water cracker between a lick of French onion spread and Cabernet Savignon jelly. There was also a platter of blue cheeses, brie, and some sort of double cream cheese before our main course of Wagyu beef steak and a stuffed chicken. It's a good thing that when it comes to dessert I'm rather bovine, with a separate compartment in my belly to digest the butterscotch and chocolate ice cream log cake and several buttercream gourmet chocolate truffles. Now's that's a tradition I could get used to. Burp.

On Christmas Eve, our family dinner was, as always, stupendous. Aside from the turkey and our family's signature minced pork stuffing, there was a bone-in ham with apple and honey sauce, some sort of veggie stir-fry, otar (a spicy fish cake), curry devil (more on that later), sushi, feng (curried innards, another Eurasian tradition), and fried noodles. For dessert, my aunty served black rice pudding topped with ice cream, a chocolate log cake and yet more chocolate truffles. Suffice it to say, I had to eat at least one portion of everything. It's only polite.

What I love best about Christmas Eve dinner though, are the leftovers. Christmas morning just isn't the same without the Christmas Morning Fry-Up. Leftovers from the night before re-fried and gobbled up again, and like all leftovers, taste better when left to steep in their own flavours overnight.

My Christmas Fry-Up breakfast menu is the same every year -- slices of ham, whatever vegetable dish was on offer the night before, and my mother's turkey stuffing (chestnuts, minced pork, mushrooms, celery, baby corn, and onions infused with star anise, cloves and a dash of soy). I've been eating stuffing like this all my life that when I spent my first Christmas away in England at age 25, I expected the stuffing at my hosts' dinner table to be, at the very least, similar to that I'm accustomed to. So imagine my shock when I took a mouthful of their mushier stuffing of breadcrumbs, sage and onions and very nearly gagged. Luckily my greedy gene kicked in and in the time I took to rearrange my face, I managed to not only swallow the stuff but convince myself that it wasn't all that bad. My palate was simply expecting something different.

Christmas Day lunch, as tradition dictates, is taken in front of the TV. On the menu is a piping hot bowl of Curry Devil, with slices of white bread to mop up the fiery gravy. Devil, as we like to call it, (or Debal, the accurate Christang name for it), is a traditional Eurasian dish, that like Sugee Cake, is served at every festive event. Unlike other curries, it uses no curry powder, but a spice mix that comprises LOTS of fresh and dried chillies, onions, candlenuts, and turmeric.

This paste is then fried for about half and hour as it absorbs the oil in the pan and then releases it again, signalling well-cooked chillies and little risk of a stomach ache the morning after (less than cooked chillies, especially in such large quantities, will leave you clutching your belly in pain on Christmas morning before sending you to the toilet for a lengthy visit). That said, it is not Devil until you break out in a sweat as you eat it -- I guess that's where it derives its name. That, and it's fiery red colour. My advice to Devil virgins usually is to leave a roll of toilet paper in the fridge the night before.

Traditionally a curry for leftovers, Devil usually contains plenty of meat from the Christmas dinner table -- turkey, duck, pork, etc. However, these days Devil is made for the dinner table, so it usually holds sausages, chicken and roast pork, with potatoes, cabbage, and cucumber. What gives Devil it's full-bodied flavour is a bunch of bacon bones or smoked ham hock. At the very end of its cooking process, when the meat is cooked and the bacon bones have released its wonderfully smoky and savoury flavour, the curry is spiked with ginger, English mustard and healthy splashes of vinegar. At the risk of sounding Nigella-ish, I have to say, mmph, just writing about it makes my mouth water and my tastebuds tingle.

So that was lunch.

Dinner was at my childhood friend M's house, whose Indian-Chinese heritage saw to another menu of curries -- mutton rendang, chicken curry, devil -- fried fishballs and chicken wings, more turkey, fried egg noodles and oh, I can't even remember what else was on the table. For dessert, an amazingly filling coconut jelly that was so delicious I had to have two.

Tomorrow, as the saying goes, is another day. My mum will be hosting a group of family friends and it will no doubt be another round of turkey and stuffing, devil, lasagne (for the kids, but adults seldom resist) and god only knows what else. Meanwhile I'm off for a long run in preparation for yet another day's feasting. I can already feel my arteries clogging.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Blogger Alicat said...

Merry Christmas Greedy Goose!! :)

11:23 pm  
Blogger *kel said...

wow wow wow thanks for sharing your gourmet feast! merry christmas from provence, france!

11:26 pm  
Blogger Kalyn said...

Merry Christmas. Sounds like you're having a lot of good food.

7:36 am  
Blogger Paz said...

What a feast,indeed! I'm glad to read that you've had a very Merry Christmas with your family.


11:21 am  

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