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Home » Food History

Christmas on Réunion Island

Submitted by on December 20, 2010 – 12:42 amNo Comment

When you’re living in a piece of France that’s an island in the Indian Ocean, holiday traditions take on a distinctly tropical hue. France Guide, the official website of the French Government Tourist Office, offers a snapshot.

On the evening of December 24, the traditional Christmas Eve celebration brings together the whole family immediately after Midnight Mass. Some Creole families opt for traditional island fare with a menu that includes rice, curry and exotic seasoning, followed by lychees (pictured). Lychees and mangoes can also be enjoyed in a punch, cake, cordial, sorbet or yogurt.

Christmas Eve supper
A delicious Réunion aperitif such as the island’s white rum, “rhum arrangé”, or a punch made from local ingredients (rum, vanilla, fruit, sugar cane) get proceedings under way, accompanied by “bonbons piments” (a type of spicy pea fritter) and samosas, not forgetting, of course, the famous “bouchons” (steamed meat or fish balls dipped in red pepper paste and “sciave”).

The main course that islanders prepare for their Christmas supper is particularly copious. It can include curry, rice and grains with exotic seasoning (the island’s signature dish), a variety of fish or meat dishes (roast turkey, chicken stew, bichique fish curry, red fish curry, duck with vanilla, etc) and fresh fish (tuna, swordfish, red mullet, etc), all of which are popular both at home, as well as in Réunion’s restaurants.

Dried legumes such as Cilaos lentils, broad or butter beans and red kidney beans are served with a sauce and accompanied by rice and a variety of curries. The seasonal mango is also used to make “rougail” (a local seasoning), to which spicy red pepper can also be added.

Desserts and sweetmeats
Prepared using local ingredients such as sugar cane, Bourbon vanilla and fruit (Victoria pineapples, “josé” mangoes, lychees, coconut, guava, etc), desserts are a popular aspect of Réunion’s cuisine. On Christmas Eve, islanders eat lychees, mangos and a Christmas log.
The traditional dish on New Year’s Eve is creole pastry.

(Photo and text courtesy of France Guide)

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