HuffPost. December 2022.
While many familiar Christmas traditions originated in Western countries, people from all around the world and from different cultural backgrounds celebrate the holiday with the same spirit of gratitude and togetherness. No matter where, recipes passed on through generations are central to family gatherings. From callaloo to chicken tikka masala, find out what renowned chefs and food influencers around the world are cooking on Christmas Eve.
Martha Ortiz Chapa is the head chef at Tuch de Luna at La Casa de la Playa in Riviera Maya. She was the chef-owner of Dulce Patria, which had been named one of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America and the best restaurant in Mexico City before closing earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. She has also served as a judge on “Top Chef Mexico,” and in 2020 was named one of the 40 best chefs in the world.
Our December traditions begin with the Posadas (a religious festival held from Dec. 16-24), which lead the way to the grand celebration of Christmas Eve. During this time, Mexicans hang seven-point-star piñatas (the peaks representing a different capital sin, including gluttony) made with contrasting colored tissue paper and filled with pieces of sugar cane, tejocotes (a fruit), orange wedges, peanuts, candies and sugar-coated almonds. We blindfold the guests, who take turns hitting the piñata until someone breaks it, in celebration of the predominance of virtue and abundance.
On Noche Buena (the night that is good), aka Christmas Eve, I elegantly present these crafts to my guests. I usually use a dark tablecloth as a canvas and decorate it with wooden kitchen utensils, such as grinders, spoons and saucepans, surrounded by colorful flowers. I personalize each guest’s place on their plate with a small piñata, which holds inside a traditional sweet or piece of candy and a message of friendship and love, in the hope that they will take it home with them and, when they break it, the abundance of affection, bonds and the celebration of life will grow.
As a proud Mexican, I begin with traditional dishes such as romeritos (tender sprigs of seepweed) with cactus strips, and mole (made with at least 50 ingredients) seasoned with dried shrimp. I serve a salad called Noche Buena, which is prepared with diced jicama, apple, beet, orange wedges and crunchy peanuts. For main, we have pork leg in spicy pulque marinade. I wash it down with my personal favorite, a punch of tejocotes, tamarind, jicama pieces, piloncillo (a raw form of pure cane sugar), guavas and spices and a touch of hard liquor.
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