When Christmas food isn't all about the turkey

The traditional Christmas dinner is enjoyed by families around Norfolk

The traditional Christmas roast dinner with plenty of gravy is enjoyed by many families - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, a vegetarian or vegan version of those festive favourites or something completely different?

Food is as much a part of Christmas as carols and Christmas trees, cards, walks and presents for most of us. Will it be the British favourite of succulent roast turkey, piping hot roast potatoes, spicy sausage meat, honey parsnips, sage and onion stuffing, buttered peas and carrots, sprouts, leeks with white sauce, pigs in blankets and masses of gravy?

Pigs in a Blanket are a familiar dish at many traditional Christmas meals in Norfolk

Pigs in a Blanket, sausages (mainly chipolatas) wrapped in bacon, are a familiar dish at many traditional Christmas meals - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Perhaps roast beef, mushroom and sweet potato wellington, cranberry and lentil bake, or salmon en croute?

That's dinner on Christmas Day sorted, but how about trying alternatives for those many other festive meal occasions?

If a meal out is on the cards, we're spoilt for choice in Norwich with so many different places to eat offering everything from traditional British fare to cosmopolitan dishes. 

Christmas in the City is supported by Chantry Place, Norwich, as part of the drive to celebrate all that is wonderful about getting out and about in Norwich. From the shops, decorations and entertainment to the friendly atmosphere, Norwich has plenty to offer, and that includes some great alternative festive food.

Paul McCarthy, general manager at Chantry Place, said: “Our restaurants and food outlets are offering delicious festive treats and menus for families, friends and work parties. From a Christmas Carbonara at Ask Italian to a set Christmas menu at The Real Greek, warm winter ramen bowls at wagamama and YO! with its Japanese Fried Chicken Christmas Sando, there is so much choice at Chantry Place this December and the chance to eat around the world.

"Ed’s Easy Diner has also partnered with Clifford the Big Red Dog movie for a special Big Red Menu, plus we also have quick dining options on our Dining Terrace, including SpudULike by James Martin and Subway with a Pig in Blanket sub.”

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Here we take a look as some festive foods from around the world that can be enjoyed in Norwich, as well as some of the Christmas traditions from those countries...

Festive dining with YO! of Chantry Place, Norwich means JFC chicken tenders with sides

YO! festive dining brings JFC buttermilk brined chicken tenders with crunchy slaw, YO! fries and sides - Credit: YO!

Festive fried goodness from YO!

Over 3.6 million people in Japan eat fried chicken every Christmas and this year YO! brings that tradition to Chantry Place, Norwich to launch JFC (Japanese Fried Chicken).

Try the JFC buttermilk brined chicken tenders, fried in the YO! secret seven-spiced flour, sprinkled with nori tinsel and sweet and spicy Korean wings. These are dished up with crunchy slaw, YO! fries, a choice of miso togarashi corn or teriyaki BBQ beans. There’s even a pot of katsu curry sauce for dunking!

There's also  the VJFC (ve) – a vegan alternative featuring karaage nuggets with Korean sweet and spicy chilli sauce for dunking, dished up with YO! fries, crunchy slaw and miso togarashi corn.

Tuck into the YO! Japanese version of the Christmas sandwich with JFC chicken

The YO! Japanese version of the Christmas sandwich with JFC chicken and Asian slaw - Credit: YO!

The Christmas sandwich is a staple during the festive season, with 100 million Christmas sandwiches eaten between Christmas and New Year in the UK. ​Traditionally made up of turkey trimmings and leftovers from a Christmas meal, YO! has re-created this classic lunchtime snack with a Japanese-inspired version using JFC chicken, Asian slaw and other delicious fillings. ​

The JFC Christmas Sando contains crispy-fried katsu chicken breast, miso drenched hash brown, spring onion and crunchy slaw smothered in YO! mayo, all layered in thick slices of white bread. This mammoth festive sandwich is skewered with a karaage popcorn chicken nugget and dished up with a pot of katsu curry sauce on the side for dipping, pouring and, let’s be honest, drinking.

YO! has a festive twist on its coke floats too, with a Chocolate Crunch Coke Float or Berry Drizzle Coke Float. The Yo! team love the history of the coke float too, explaining that the Coke float was originally created to encourage people to drink the carbonated soft drink from a glass instead of a bottle.

Tonia Buxton, celebrity consultant chef at The Real Greek at Chantry Place, Norwich

Tonia Buxton, celebrity consultant chef at The Real Greek at Chantry Place, Norwich said Greek Christmas food is magical - Credit: The Real Greek

Go Mediterranean at The Real Greek

Over at The Real Greek, one of the new faces on the Norwich restaurant scene at Chantry Place, celebrity consultant chef Tonia Buxton said Christmas is a very special occasion in Greece. 

"We spend this holiday with family and friends, over delicious homecooked food," she explained. "There is joy, warmth, and happiness all around!

"One of the reasons that makes Christmas so loved are the traditions and customs that have been handed down from generation to generation and are kept in Greece religiously, year after year. They’re all about history, community, and good food."

The main events are on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, where large family dinners and lunches will take place, as well as New Year’s Eve and Day, when this is repeated.

A selection of festive specials from The Real Greek restaurant at Chantry Place, Norwich

A selection of festive specials from The Real Greek restaurant at Chantry Place, Norwich - Credit: The Real Greek


Tonia continued: "A specific customs unique to Greeks is that as well as putting Christmas trees and beautiful decorations up, in some regions - especially the islands - you’ll come across beautiful wooden boat replicas, decorated with fairy lights. These are traditionally removed on January 6, the day of Epiphany.

"Gifts in Greece were traditionally exchanged on St Basil’s Day on January 1, but nowadays each house has its own preference between that or Christmas Eve.

"Christmas is also a time where all over Greece, the scent in the air is that of cookies! It’s impossible not to come across the famous buttery almond Kourabiedes or syrupy Melomakarona honey and walnut cookies. They’ll be offered in every home, either homemade or shop bought, and they literally become their own food group," said Tonia.

Other popular desserts of the season are Diples - light and airy folded dough, drizzled in honey and nuts. 

Another tradition that is usually anxiously awaited for by children is that of Greek Carolling, or Kalanta. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, children set off in groups and go around their neighbourhoods, knocking on doors and singing two specific songs. They are usually rewarded with small change, and they use their ‘profits’ to buy Christmas gifts - something special for them or their families.

Tonia said there's more, too: "On the 12 days of Christmas, everyone also keeps an eye out for the mischievous Kallikantzari - little goblins that will wreak havoc in the home according to folk tradition. They are usually fended off by a blessing of holy water from the local priest on the Epiphany day.

"Here at The Real Greek, we all enjoy keeping those traditions. Our number one priority is to make our guests feel the Greek Christmas spirit, hence all of our restaurants are beautifully decorated - you’ll even spot the traditional boats in most of our locations - and our Christmas menu is heart-warming and delicious!"

The Christmas menu at The Real Greek costs £19.95 for two courses or £24.95 for three courses, both of which include a glass of prosecco.

The menu offers a selection plate of Greek meze - think houmous, green pea fava, tzatziki, crudites, dolmades, cheese & spinach pie - a hot meze and a side dish for mains, as well as a choice of dessert. 
Tonia added: "We’d like to wish everybody a merry Christmas, spent with loved ones over delicious food."

Pigs in blanket melt is one of the festive specials at Caffe Nero in Chantry Place, Norwich, Norfolk

Pigs in blanket melt is one of the festive specials at Caffe Nero - Credit: Caffe Nero

An Italian twist on the traditional at Caffe Nero

Look out for Caffe Nero's take on a pigs in blankets tostati melt, featuring British sausages with beechwood smoked bacon, mascarpone and cranberry sauce. Or try the truffle, cotto ham tostati melt, which  includes Prosciutto truffle ham, creamy mascarpone and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Whatever you're eating this festive season - enjoy!