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  • Writer's picturePhil Evans

7 Must-Try International Holidays Recipes

It’s finally that time of the year where we get to celebrate with delicious food, beautiful lights, decorations, and our loved ones. Here in the US, your typical holiday dinner may include a turkey and jam, or roast beef with side dishes like mashed potatoes and an apple pie for dessert. However, thanks to our diverse immigrant community in Portland we’ve come to learn about different traditions from around the world – especially Mexico and the Philippines. Christmas dinner may look quite different in many Portland homes and being exposed to these delicious recipes can only enrich our own Christmas traditions.

If you’re up to cooking something a little different this Christmas season, we’ve compiled a list of some truly delicious recipes from clients and friends from around the world. And if you wish you had a more spacious dining room for all your guests, we can help too! Check out our monthly home-buying class here.

Kołaczki (Polish cookies)

These amazing fruit-filled cookies are relatively easy to make and are a perfect treat for Christmas or any other day. They are rich, flaky, and a perfect combination of cream cheese cookie and fruit jam. To top it all, sprinkle some powdered sugar and enjoy!

For the pastry:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese.

  • 1 1/2 cups butter.

  • 3 cups flour.

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.

  • 1 – 11/2 cups of filling, such as fruit preserves or jam, nut or poppy seed filling.


  1. Cream the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.

  2. Stir in flour and salt.

  3. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

  4. Preheat oven to 350.

  5. Roll out the dough by first dusting the surface (mat or countertop) with granular sugar.

  6. Roll to 1/8 inch and cut into 2-inch squares. I used a fluted pastry cutter to get the zig-zap along the edge of the cookies.

  7. Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each square.

  8. Fold over opposite corners and seal well.

  9. Bake for 15 minutes or until corners just begin to brown.

  10. Cool on a rack and dust with powdered sugar.

Bûche de Noël (French Yule Log cake)

This heavenly flourless cake rolled with chocolate whipped cream is a staple in French homes during the holidays. It is meant to symbolize the Yule log, which families burned on Christmas Eve. In the French tradition, the Yule log represents the new year to come and brings families good luck.


  • 2 cups heavy cream.

  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar.

  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

  • 6 egg yolks.

  • ½ cup white sugar.

  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract.

  • ⅛ teaspoon salt.

  • 6 egg whites.

  • ¼ cup white sugar.

  • confectioners' sugar for dusting.


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whip cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until thick and stiff. Refrigerate.

  2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until pale in color, light and frothy. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt. In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.

  4. Unroll the cake, and spread the filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, and refrigerate until serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Celebrate Hanukkah in Israel with Latkes

Of course, we don’t all gather just to celebrate Christmas this time of the year. There are many other beautiful traditions like Hanukkah that include their own traditions and staple foods. In Israel, Latkes are a traditional part of Hanukkah dinner. These potato pancakes are fairly simple to make and are the perfect complement for any dinner.


  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds potatoes.

  • 2 onions, peeled.

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten.

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

  • 1/4 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour.

  • 1 cup canola oil, for frying.

  • Applesauce, or sour cream, for garnish.


  • Line a platter or plate with paper towels and set aside.

  • Peel the potatoes. Place them in a bowl and add enough cold water to cover them, so they won’t turn brown. When ready to prepare the latkes, drain the potatoes.

  • Place potatoes and onions in a food processor fitted with a knife blade (also known as the s-blade). Pulse until smooth. Drain the mixture well.

  • Pour the potato mixture into a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

  • Add enough flour so that the mixture holds together.

  • Pour the oil into a large, deep frying pan for shallow frying. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.

  • Carefully drop 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the hot oil. Flatten the pancake slightly so the center will cook. Repeat with additional batter, taking care not to crowd the pan.

  • Fry for several minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.

  • Transfer to the paper towel-lined platter to drain, and continue frying the remaining latke batter in batches. Serve immediately with applesauce or sour cream if desired.

Lechon Kawali from the Philippines

Also known as lechon de carajay or litsong kawali in Tagalog, this is one of the best pork recipes you’ll ever try. This deep-fried pork belly dish is eaten year-round in the Philippines, but it is definitely a staple of Christmas dinners in that country.

  • 3 lbs. pork belly.

  • 5 pieces of dried bay leaves.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole pepperorn.

  • 3 pints water.

  • 2 pints cooking oil.

  • 1 tablespoon salt.


  1. Boil water in a cooking pot.

  2. Add dried bay leaves and whole peppercorn. Cook for 2 minutes.

  3. Add pork belly. Cover and cook in medium heat for 30 minutes or until tender. Turn the meat over (if necessary) to equally cook the opposite side.

  4. Remove the pork belly from the cooking pot. Place it in a clean plate. Let it cool down until you can safely handle it with your hands.

  5. Rub salt all over the pork. Let it stay for 15 minutes.

  6. Heat oil in a deep cooking pot. Once the oil gets hot (320F to 350F), put the boiled pork belly in skin side facing down. Deep fry until the skin turns brown. Note: there is no definite time for this step. Use the sound of the oil as your queue. When the oil starts to calm down a bit, check the pork belly to see if the skin is brown.

  7. Turn the pork belly over and deep fry the opposite side for 5 minutes.

  8. Remove the entire pork belly slab from the cooking pot. Place it in a plate with grates or lined with paper towel. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Note: turn off the stove during this time.

  9. Turn on the stove to heat the oil. Once the oil is hot enough, put the pork belly back into the pot skin side facing down. Deep fry for 3 to 6 minutes or until golden brown.

  10. Remove from the cooking pot. Put on a plate and let the excess oil drip.

  11. Test for crispiness by hitting the crackling (crispy skin) lightly with a fork or knife. It should create a sound. Chop the super crispy lechon kawali into bite-sized pieces.

  12. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and a cup of warm rice.

  13. Share and enjoy!

Pan de Jamon from Venezuela

This one goes out to our Portland Timbers coach! Pan de Jamon (literally ham bread) is a very important part of the Venezuelan Christmas dinner that showcases one of its main characteristics: combining sweet and salty flavors. The typical Pan de Jamon has a little sweetness to the dough and is filled with glazed ham, green olives, and raisins, although it can also include cream cheese and bacon.


  • 3tablespoons dry yeast

  • 1/2cup lukewarm water

  • 1teaspoon sugar

  • 4cups all-purpose flour

  • 3tablespoons sugar

  • 3/4teaspoon salt

  • 6tablespoons butter

  • 1 egg

  • 6tablespoons tepid milk

  • 1lb sliced ham

  • 2 cups sliced green olives

  • 1 cup raisins

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  • In small bowl, place yeast, the lukewarm water and a teaspoon of sugar. Stir and leave it covered for 30 minutes.

  • Place all-purpose flour on table and leave an empty space in the center. Stir in yeast with the water, the sugar, the salt, the butter and the egg, and start kneading. As you knead, stir in the milk slowly until dough is smooth; dough should easily comes off the surface. Make a ball and cover with a dishcloth. Let dough rest for 1 1/2 hours.

  • Place dough on a floured surface and, using a rolling pin, start extending it until it is an approximately 10 X 18-inch, 1/2-inch thick rectangle.

  • Evenly distribute the ham, the olives and the raisins over the dough. Then firmly roll it up like a Swiss roll. Fold in the edges with your hands.

  • Let the breads rest on a baking sheet for an hour, covered by a dishcloth and greased with a tablespoon of butter.

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  • Place the breads in the oven until golden brown, about 20 a 25 minutes.

  • Beat the egg yolk and a teaspoon of sugar.

  • When breads are golden brown, remove from oven and brush with egg and sugar mixture. Bake for another 5 minutes.

  • Remove from oven and let cool before eating.

South African Amarula Malva Pudding

Also called marshmallow pudding, this is a traditional South African dessert made with Amarula liqueur. Amarula is a traditional cream liqueur made with marula fruit. This fruit comes from the African Marula tree, which can only be found in the sub-Equatorial region of Africa. It gained notoriety in the US when Oprah’s chef serve it on the show for Christmas in 2006.


  • 1 cup (250 ml) cake flour.

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda.

  • Pinch of salt.

  • 1 egg.

  • 1 cup (250 ml) caster sugar.

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apricot jam.

  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) orange peel.

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) melted butter.

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon juice or vinegar.

  • 1 cup (250 ml) milk.

  • Custard for serving.


  • ½ tin condensed milk.

  • ½ cup (125 ml) milk.

  • ½ cup (125 ml) cream.

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) Amarula liquor.

  • Pinch of nutmeg.


  • Heat the oven to 180°C and grease the serving bowl or individual cups.

  • Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a mixing bowl.

  • Cream the egg and caster sugar together in a separate bowl.

  • Add the jam, orange peel, butter and vinegar (or lemon juice) and mix well.

  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.

  • Pour into the greased serving bowl or individual cups and cover with foil.

  • Bake individual servings for 20 minutes or single serving for 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked.

  • For the sauce: Melt all the ingredients together in a pot and pour over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven. Poke holes in the pudding with a fork so that it absorbs the sauce more easily.

Mexican Christmas Ponche

This fruit punch is a warm and comforting beverage that you’ll find in most Mexican homes during the holidays, regardless of the region. Its heavenly aroma will permeate your home. It is packed with flavor and perfect for chilly winter afternoons.

  • 4 quarts of water 1 gallon.

  • 1 large piloncillo cone (or 12 oz. of brown sugar).

  • 3 cinnamon sticks.

  • 1 lb Tejocotes (if you can’t any, you can still make the drink without them).

  • 1½ Lb. guavas about 12 guavas.

  • ¾ cup prunes chopped.

  • 1½ cup apples chopped.

  • 1 cup pear chopped.

  • ½ cup raisins.

  • 3 sugar cane sticks, about 5-in. long cut into four pieces each.

  • 1 cup of Tamarind pods peeled.

  • Rum to taste.


  • Place water in a large stockpot.

  • Add the piloncillo (or brown sugar) and cinnamon to cook for about 15 minutes. If you are using fresh Tejocotes, add them with the piloncillo and cinnamon, since they take longer to soften. Ponche Navideno

  • Add the chopped guavas, apples, and prunes along with the rest of the ingredients like the sugar cane sticks, tamarind pods or hibiscus flowers. If you are using the canned version of the tejocotes, then add them in this step.

  • Simmer for about 1 hour. Serve hot in mugs, ladling in some of the fruit and adding rum to your liking.

At Timber & Rose Realty Group we wish you a memorable and delicious holiday season. We're thankful for the opportunity to help so many families become homeowners and start building wealth each year. If you're thinking about selling your home in the future and want to know what it's really worth, get your home value here. Happy Holidays!!


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