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Add a bit more variety to the standard Aussie 'shrimp on the barbie' this year and take some inspiration from the culturally diverse broadcasters of SBS Radio with their multicultural culinary guide to the Christmas feast.
Olga Klepova

19 Dec 2017 - 11:01 PM  UPDATED 20 Dec 2017 - 11:27 AM

Modern Australian society is culturally and ethnically diverse with almost half of the population, 49 per cent, born overseas or having at least one parent who was born overseas.

Our work environment at SBS reflects this multiculturalism too, with people who work here coming from all corners of the world - particularly at SBS Radio, which is home to 68 different language programs. 

This year we asked a range of our broadcasters, whose homelands celebrate Christmas, to name one Christmas dish served in those countries - to help you bring the multicultural spirit of Australia to your Christmas table.

Christmas specialties from 10 different countries

Here in Australia we are catching up with many countries in their Christmas celebrations as many of them actually start on Christmas Eve - making the 24th of December the key day instead of the 25th. Australians usually have to wait an extra day to unwrap the gifts and start the BBQ.


Bulgarians definitely take pride and a lot of creativity in their preparations for Christmas Eve dinner, where they serve 13 different vegetarian dishes. 

Following the Catholic procedures of the fast, no meat is allowed on table.

The SBS Bulgarian Executive Producer Filli Ladgman gives tips for two dishes.

"The most popular dish is Sarmi – sour cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, onion and parsley," he says. "You can also stuff grape leaves but remember to avoid any type of mince."

Get the recipe for Sarma here - a very similar dish to Sarmi, served in Serbia. 


Seems like in Denmark they have been pursuing recycling since the time baby Jesus was born because, as our colleague from Denmark Mik Aidt said, while celebrating Christmas they don’t waste food.

The Danes start the festive season before the rest of the world, on the 23rd, serving a rice porridge called Risengrød.

However, when they serve it the next day, it’s called Risalamande, a revamped version with added cream and almonds.

Here is how you make Risengrød.


The Baltic country Estonia embraces its negative temperatures outdoors when celebrating Christmas.

Estonians need heavy food and Verivorst (don't be tricked by the name), the blood sausage stuffed with barley and accompanied with the stewed sauerkraut, or jellied meat - Sült, are just the right fit.

The Süllt is made of a variety of meat including hocks, oxtails and head parts and this is the speciality of the Estonian jellied meat.

It's a true food experiment for the first-time jellied meat tasters, since the concept of this dish has not made its way much outside  Nordic countries.

Here is the recipe for Verivorst and if you are feeling brave, check out the Sult recipe. 

Related recipe from SBS Food
Braun (or headcheese)
The keys to good braun are good stock and a good press. Most people get access to good stock but braun presses are hard to come by these days. You can rig one up with a bread loaf tin, cardboard and a bucket of water.


Traditional English Plum pudding this year can be served under its French equivalent name – A Bûche de Noël or yule log.

Sharing his childhood memories, Executive Producer of the SBS French program Christophe Mallet suggests preparing enough decorative figurines that go on top of the log since every child in the family insists on having one.

"If you are not a big fan of white chocolate," he says, "simply make it dark."

How to make French Bûche de Noël
White chocolate buche de noel
A buche de noel (or yule log) is the French equivalent of the English plum pudding, so if you don’t have one on the table, it’s not Christmas. This is my light twist on a festive favourite and is the perfect palate cleanser after lunch or dinner.


It was not easy for our Italian friends to choose just one dish. The culinary and culture of the country is so diverse to the point that some parts have their main celebrations on the 24th and others on the 25th. 

Uova Ripiene, which is a great antipasti dish, was the one the Executive producer of SBS Italian, Magica Fossati was able to adapt to Aussie taste buds and carry on cooking every year for Australian Christmas.

See how they make traditional Uova Ripiene.


In Poland they stick to the Catholic laws of abstaining from meat and keep their dishes fish-based.

Although carp is not considered of great value in Australia, in Eastern Europe where they have plenty of it, carp is often the basis for many fish meals.

SBS Polish producer Dariusz Buchowiecki says that on Christmas Eve they make sauerkraut and mushrooms as a side dish. 

Here is the list for a set menu for Polish Wigilia, the traditional Christmas Eve family supper.

Related recipe from SBS Food;
Christmas poppy seed dessert (kutia)
Kutia is an old Slavic pre-Christmas dessert. A concoction of poppy seeds, honey, wheat, nuts and fruit was consumed on the longest night of the year, during a ritual to remember family ancestors. The dish has survived for millennia and has been adopted as part of the Christian Christmas Eve tradition.


The Slovaks warm up on Christmas Eve with a good bowl of cabbage soup called Kapustnica.

With or without pork, for the purpose of fasting, its main ingredient is sauerkraut.

"In Slovakia they stretch the celebrations for three days starting on the 24th and some of the leftovers are remade for the next day," explains the Executive Producer of the SBS Slovak program, Andrej Bucko. "The festive season days conclude on the 26th after the visit of the church."

Here is a recipe for Slovak Kapustnica. 


In Latin America the big celebrations fall onto 24th as well, as producers of SBS Spanish Marcia De Los Santos and Carmenza Jimenez explain.

There is no feast without Asado meat in Argentina, the BBQ ribs traditionally made on hot coals on your backyard. Nowadays, respecting the tradition but preferring more convenient ways, people switched to Weber.

Recipe here
Asado and chimichurri
Asado is a technique for cooking cuts of meat (usually beef) as well as sausages and offal on a barbecue. It is a traditional dish of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay and generally goes hand in hand with chimichurri, a spicy, garlicky parsley sauce. The meat is cooked without any embellishments, just very slowly over coals, until it melts in your mouth and cuts like butter. Fabian Conca uses two barbecues – a covered Weber to cook sausages like fresh chorizos, morcillas (blood sausages), beef intestines and sweetbreads, and an open grill for large pieces of flank steak and long lengths of beef spare ribs which he covers with newspaper and cooks for about an hour, turning every 15 minutes.

On the other side of Latin America, in Colombia, no single family would have Christmas dinner without Natilla. It’s a sweet custard based dessert with family recipes carefully kept by grandmothers.

See a recipe for Natilla here.


SBS radio producer for SBS French and NITV Radio Bertrand Tungandame was born in Rwanda.

He explains that Christmas in his country is shaped differently to the Western world, as the country is very religious and not economically advanced.

For example, "gift giving doesn’t exist there," says Bertrand.

"While people still get together, the place for public gathering is the church which on Christmas Eve can’t even fit everyone."

So what about the feast? Bertrand explains, "Rwandans don’t have a special dish but they do have a special home brewed drink – Urwagwa, a banana beer or wine."

"Since guests come in unannounced, each family cooks a lot to be able to feed anyone.

"The supplies usually come from their own backyard.

"This day anyone is welcomed and joy spills into the streets." 

See how to brew Urwagwa at home.

These multicultural feast ideas have been brought to you by SBS Russian who wish you a happy and tasty holiday season! 

Listen tot SBS Russian podcasts here

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