• Bobó de camarão (Sharyn Cairns)Source: Sharyn Cairns
Nothing indicates a festive table quite like a plate of seafood.
By
Lucy Rennick

12 Nov 2018 - 12:22 PM  UPDATED 25 Dec 2018 - 12:18 AM

Between juicy, fire-orange prawns on Christmas Day in Australia, and whole fish laden with herbs and spices to bring in a prosperous Lunar New Year, seafood pops up all over the world as a marker of celebration – even in countries where it features heavily in the cuisine all year around.

Here’s a selection of festive seafood dishes from around the world – an ode to seafood in all its many forms, and how different cultures use it to throw some serious parties. 

Sweden: Crayfish for summer parties

Ain’t no party like a crayfish party, as they say in Sweden. This tradition stems from the mid-1800s, but from the early 1900s, people couldn't go too crazy, as the crayfishing season had to be restricted to certain months around August due to overfishing. 

These days, the import economy allows Swedes to access their beloved crayfish all year round. This, of course, hasn’t stopped the annual crayfish parties from happening all over the country, which is just as much about celebrating the onset of summer as they are about enjoying this national delicacy.

True to Swede preferences, crayfish are usually cooked in brine and topped with plenty of crown dill.

Try this version, which adds dark beer to the boil.

Singapore chilli crab:  For whenever the party mood strikes

Chilli crab is Singapore’s national dish for a reason – it’s known around the world as an instant go-to any time festive food is on the cards, and its taste surely has the power to end wars. This is one party food that could well be eaten every night of the week.

Brazilian prawns, cassava and rice

Hailing from the Bahia region of northern Brazil, no celebration would be complete without this comforting dish of prawns, cassava, coconut and ghee. To add a deep savoury flavour fry prawn heads in olive oil and then add coconut water to make a rich red stock. This is added to the cassava and this is an excellent dish that layers flavour-on-flavour-on-flavour. Bonus: no Brazilian meal is complete without the staple of farofa - made with onion, fried in ghee along with cassava flour, salt and fresh coriander - this mix is cooked until golden and crunchy!

Bobó de camarão

China: Whole fish for Lunar New Year

The Mandarin word for fish has the same pronunciation as the word meaning ‘surplus’ or ‘extra’, so eating fish on Chinese New Year’s Eve has come to symbolise filling up on prosperity and abundance for the year ahead.

 

Whole fish is cooked in a number of different traditions across Asia over the Lunar New Year period.

The Mandarin word for fish has the same pronunciation as the word meaning ‘surplus’ or ‘extra’, so eating fish on Chinese New Year’s Eve has come to symbolise filling up on prosperity and abundance for the year ahead.

Maybe a big-headed carp is braised and loaded with spring onions, or a steamed whole barramundi topped with a blanket of thinly sliced spring onion. Whatever recipe you opt for, prepare to share – whole fish is perfect for banquet-style dining.

Japan: Red sea bream for spring and New Year festivals

The red sea bream is said to be the most prized fish in Japan, for its colour (red is an auspicious hue in many Asian countries), refined taste and abundance in the months of spring.

During the New Year festivities, it’s commonly grilled whole or enjoyed as sashimi, while taimeshi (fish cooked with rice) is popular during spring when the fish are slightly slimmer.

Lebanese go whole

Celebrating the whole snapper, this Lebanese bake uses the homemade fish and onion stock for the cooking of the rice. It's an epic dish to celebrate incredible fish and the tarator of tahini and lemon juice will be hard to ignore when this Lebanese-style pilaf lands on the table. All hail sayadieh! And you'll want your stock to be saltier than you think because the rice will drink all that salt and balance the dish out. And don't be afraid to be generous with your spice and butter - remember, you're worth it and this might just be the best rice you'll ever spoon.

Sayadieh

Southeast Asia: Yee sang on the seventh day of the Lunar New Year

Every ingredient in this South East Asian dish counts. Known colloquially as the prosperity toss, salmon, pickled ginger, shredded vegetables and an array of condiments (like sesame oil, plum sauce, peanuts, pepper and cinnamon, to name a few) come together to bring prosperity, happiness and personal fulfilment to whoever eats it.

Get tossing!

Italy/America: La Vigilia for Christmas Eve

La Vigilia, or the Feast of the Seven Fishes, is an Italian-American tradition invoking the Catholic mantra of vigilia di magro (“lean feast”), abstinence from meat on Christmas Eve. Typically, seven seafood dishes will be prepared in seven different ways, but the rules are in no way rigid. You might feel like adding this kingfish crudo to the line-up this year. 

Spaghetti alle vongole, linguini with anchovy sauce, roasted eel and even baccalà (salt cod) frequently pop up on Seven Fishes menus, alongside shellfish like oysters and lobster. It’s decadent, to say the least.

Who needs meat on Christmas Eve, anyway?

Spain: Fideuà for a dinner party

A spin on paella when you’re feeling like noodles instead of rice, this fideuà is made with prawns, calamari, snapper, ling and tuna fish which makes it ideal for a dinner party, or any time you’re entertaining more than a couple of guests. It is typically made with short thin noodles called fideos but spaghettini is a good substitute if you can’t find it.

Fideuà

Australia: Jumbo prawns for Christmas Day

Is there anything more Australian than shelling giant prawns with the family on a 30˚C Christmas Day?

Prawns have come to be synonymous with a sunny Australian Christmas, so throw another one on the barbie while you unwrap presents this year. For a twist on the classic, try this harissa, coconut and citrus glaze on your barbecued prawns.

Want more celebratory seafood recipes? Check out our recipe collection here. Food Safari Water is all about celebrating with festive fish. You can watch the  episode, videos and get all the recipes right here.

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