Gastronomic traditions at Christmas in Reunion Island
On the evening of 24 December, the traditional Christmas Eve celebration brings together the whole family immediately after Midnight Mass, when those attending enjoy a festive supper, along with lychees, mangoes and a Christmas log. Some Creole families opt for more traditional island fare with a menu that includes rice, curry and exotic seasoning, followed by lychees (lychees and mangoes can also be enjoyed in a punch, cake, cordial, sorbet, yoghurt etc).
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 pulses 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.