Christmas Dinner in Asia: Twists on Classics from Your Resident Asian-Canadian

Christmas Dinner in Asia: Twists on Classics from Your Resident Asian-Canadian

Add an Asian spin to traditional Christmas dishes to brighten up your festive holiday feasts.

Some of you may know that I’m a bit of a mixed cultural bag. I was born in (British) Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver, Canada, and spent the last decade between New York, Montreal (French Canada), San Francisco, and now back in Hong Kong. Over the years, my cooking has undoubtedly been colored by these diverse experiences, and each Christmas, my dinner table has become somewhat of a cultural mosaic, incorporating the old and new, eastern and western, past and present.

Here are some of my personal Christmas dinner favorites, all with an Asian twist, organized by course; hopefully these will spark your culinary imagination, and bring a bit of ‘eastern’ flair to your holiday table.


1. Bánh Mì Crostini

Crostini with chicken liver pâté. Photo: Getty

I love pâté for parties. It requires very little prep, it’s elegant, and it’s a forever classic.

While I will always enjoy the traditional way of serving it with cornichon (those cute little French pickles) and Dijon mustard, wouldn’t it be fun to incorporate some Vietnamese flavors? After all, the French did bring pâté to Vietnam.

Make crostini by slicing a skinny baguette into ½ inch slices, and toast until crispy. Spread a generous amount of pâté (I prefer chicken liver) onto each and top with a slice of pickled daikon radish, a thin slice of green chili, and a leaf of fresh cilantro or mint. Finish with a crack of coarse black pepper. Et Voila!

Related: 5 Ways to Use Leftover Christmas Dishes

2. Japanese Prawn Cocktail

Prawn cocktails. Photo: Getty

Prawn cocktail is an old school classic that is still around for a reason. It looks festive, it’s easy to eat, and goes super well with, well, cocktails! Here is my Japanese take on this crowd pleaser.

Instead of poaching your prawns in the traditional lemon, white wine and herbs, try poaching them in dashi - the mother of all Japanese broths - made with water, kombu, and bonito flakes; I like to add a dash of mirin (Japanese cooking wine) as well. This will give your prawns a wonderful depth of flavor.

While the cooked prawns chill in the fridge, get some store bought mayonnaise (keep it stress free!) and add some wasabi (I like to be generous) and a squeeze of citrus juice, along with its zest. If you can find yuzu, that would be ideal, but lemon works great. Garnish your Japanese-flavored mayo with a sprinkle of furikake and serve cold with the prawns. Oishii!

For more Japanese inspiration, check out Yuda Bustara’s Salmon Kama Mentai Rice.

Related: The Top 6 Japanese Ingredients and Recipe Suggestions


Growing up in multicultural Vancouver, Christmas party spreads were inherently international. It wasn’t uncommon to see lumpia and California rolls next to the roast ham, and mashed potatoes. My family would traditionally have roast beef on Christmas Eve, and turkey on Christmas Day.

3. Roast Beef with Miso Gravy

Roast Beef with Gravy. Photo: Getty

Making gravy from scratch is simpler than you might think, and it’s oh so worth it.

When your beef is out of the oven, lift it out of the roasting pan and onto a separate platter. Then place the roasting pan with all the beautiful pan juices straight onto the stove on medium flame. Pour in about a cup of red wine and while the wine is bubbling away, scrape the flavorful meaty bits off the bottom of the pan and incorporate it into the wine. It should smell heavenly. If you prefer not to use alcohol, some beef stock with a dash of Worcestershire is a great substitute.

Then, add beef stock to form the bulk of the gravy, and whisk in a generous spoonful of dark miso. It’s important to taste and adjust, as the miso is inherently salty. In any case, you will be amazed at how harmonious the flavor of miso is with the beef. If you find the gravy too thin, use a failsafe trick from the Chinese kitchen: corn starch slurry.

For the perfect accompaniment, check out the fabulous Sarah Benjamin’s Soy Sauce Butter Mushroom Pasta.

Related: 10 Festive Menus To Usher In The Jolly Spirit In Singapore

4. Turkey with Fried Rice Stuffing

Roast turkey

It’s exactly as it sounds, and it is delicious.

The way my family did it was stuffing the turkey with half of the fried rice, and serving the other half on the table, that way you get two “personalities” - half the rice will be soft and moist, infused with the flavor of the turkey, while the rest of the rice will be fluffy, separated, and drier in texture.

Here’s some inspiration for leftover turkey, courtesy of my mother, a.k.a. “Mama Wong” - take the bones and meat and make the most flavorful turkey congee the next day. To serve, top the congee with spring onions, crispy fried shallots (get them in the Vietnamese aisle of the supermarket) and garlicky chili oil.  You’re welcome.

For a smaller Christmas gathering, Check out my girl Ili Sulaiman’s Roasted Kicap Chicken with Asian Stuffing.

Related: Rediscover Fried Rice and Its Rich Blend Of Flavors, History and Culture


5. Kicap Manis Ganache over Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla ice cream with sauce. Photo: Getty

While I enjoy baking, my favorite kinds of desserts are effortless and impactful. I first came across the combination of kicap manis (sweet, syrupy dark soy sauce) and chocolate when I visited BEAU Bakery in Jakarta, where I had the most glorious salty, sweet, umami-tinged chocolate éclair; so thank you chef Talita Setyadi for your inspiration!

For the simplest and most crowd-pleasing dessert, create a classic chocolate ganache by combining equal parts bittersweet chocolate and cream, sugar to taste, and a few swirls of kicap manis. Melt gently over a low flame until everything is incorporated, and you have a silky smooth chocolate sauce. Taste and adjust the sugar and kicap manis to your liking. Spoon the ganache over 2 scoops of good quality vanilla ice cream and top with crushed ginger snap cookies. Perfection.

Happy Holidays, and may your Christmas dinner be full of flavor and inspiration!

Related: Enjoy Holiday Feasts from These Home-Based Businesses in Jakarta


Debbie Wong is self-taught cook and classically trained actor based in Hong Kong. She is the host of Food Wars Asia, Kitchen Quickies, and her ongoing international culinary series on YouTube -Debbie Wong’s Wok and Gong. Follow her on all socials @ms.debbiewong.

For more delicious recommendations and recipes for Christmas, see our Festive Feasts page. 

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