Try these Easter eats from around the world
Christians around the world are as united by Easter as they are varying in the way they celebrate the holiday on the dinner table.
For the uninitiated, Sunday Easter meals (or sometimes Saturday night dinners) are the feast after a 40-day season of Lent fasting that mimics Jesus’s own fasting to prepare for his crucifixion by Roman soldiers and the Jewish religious elite. Some Christians may have eaten only one full meal a day since Ash Wednesday (on Mar. 6 in 2019).
To help you celebrate the diversity of Lenten feasts, we’ve rounded up our favorite dishes with links to recipes.
Pickled fish from South Africa
This Cape Town curry staple is traditionally eaten on Good Friday, though it’s not just a Christian dish. It’s believed to have originated from the Cape Malay fusion of Muslim Malaysian, Indonesian and East African slaves imported by the Dutch in the 1800s. The dish became popular for Lent while Christians fasted from meat.
It’s made by frying local varieties of fish (many large ones like cob, kingklip, snoek, kingfish) with onions and spices, adding vinegar and sugar, and then cooling it soaked in turmeric.
Fanesca from Ecuador
Americans eat Turkey on Thanksgiving, and Ecuadorian Catholics eat fanesca on Easter. The traditional Lenten soup is prepared only once a year during Holy Week. It’s made with different combinations of fresh grains (as many as 12 different kinds), often four different types of beans, dried and salted cod fish, vegetables and spices.
Pro-tip: These ingredients are known to bust out some unpleasant side effects (i.e. flatulence), though soaking the beans first overnight and cooking with the Mexican herb epazote can do wonders to reduce the risks.
Spiced lamb from the Middle East and Mediterranean
Lamb has all kinds of religious significance for Jews and Christians. On the first Passover, the Israelites’ flight from oppression in Egypt, God told them to slaughter highly-valued lambs and swipe the blood over their doors so that death would pass over their homes (and only each Egyptian household’s firstborn would die).
Thereafter, Jewish priests sacrificed perfect lambs as atonements for people’s sin. In the New Testament, Jesus is called the lamb of God and the lamb is used as a symbol to represent Christ’s suffering and slaughter but also his innocence, purity and gentleness.
White borscht from Poland
This white soup is loaded with protein, and every item takes on a religious significance. The sausage links symbolize the chain of death broken by Christ’s resurrection from the dead, salt symbolizes preservation from sin and harkens to the Bible verse about Christians being the salt of the earth, butter and milk symbolize the end of Lent and richness of salvation, and eggs symbolize hope and new life.
Try it here.
Torta pasqualina from Italy
This savory Easter pie from Genoa on Italy’s northwestern coast is made of 33 layers of dough, one for each of Christ’s years living on earth, and filled with eggs and swiss chard or artichokes. It’s like deep-dish quiche. Since it makes great leftovers, it’s often eaten on Easter Monday at picnics.
If you don’t like cooking, making this dish will either try your patience or give you time to ponder Christ’s sacrifice. To stay traditional, each layer of dough must be hand-rolled very thinly, though even the locals cheat on the number of layers now. The best versions also use marjoram and prescinseua, local cheese curds.
Try it here.
Kanji from India
This porridge is a fasting meal eaten before church on Good Friday by many Keralan Christians in India’s south. It’s simple, filling and similar to Chinese and Vietnamese congee, another rice porridge. Somewhat mimicking Jesus’s bitter time on the cross, Kerala Christians also line up after church to drink bitter gourd juice. (It’s hard to keep a straight face when tasting it.) Saturday, another vegetarian meal may be eaten, then a feast on Easter Sunday.
But a good bowl of kanji will never disappoint, especially paired with a gram flour stir fry with coconut or mango pickle. It’s a standard dish for those with fever, or just for breakfast, thus becoming a comfort food for many (similar to khichdi, an Indian rice and lentils dish that many vegans and health foodies love).
Try it here.
Hot cross buns from the UK
These Easter buns are baked with raisins or currants and have a cross on top, sometimes made with frosting. Christians in Australia, India and other former British colonies also tend to eat hot cross buns.
Try them here.
Kulich from Eastern Europe and Russia
This tall cylindrical bread, also called Paska, is as old as the Byzantine Empire and eaten by many Eastern Orthodox Christians in countries like Russia, Serbia, Romania, Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus.
The bread goes in a decorated tin and icing and sometimes sprinkes are ooured over the top. Sometimes, families bring their kulich to church for a priest to bless it. The leftovers also make scrumptious French toast for Easter Monday morning.
Roasted pig from the Philippines
Lechon, or pig suckling, is a Spanish-style roast popular in both Puerto Rico and the Phillippines for Easter Sunday. But in the Philippines, it’s also a national dish. Pigs are skewered and roasted over an open fire pit (and on other Catholic feast days dressed up and paraded to the fire). You can also skewer only some parts of the pig, like the belly.
Fried spring rolls filled with ground pork and shrimp, also called lumpiang shanghai, are popular too and can be used as side dishes.