Spices & Cultural Traditions Blend at Yuletide

We’re sharing some of our favorite holiday recipes from around the world

From the staff of The Spice & Tea Exchange® of Alexandria, sponsored

Borscht is a traditional Christmas Eve dish in Poland. Gorgeous red color from beets makes this soup a very festive course. Spice & Tea has all the ingredients to make a spectacular soup.

Borscht is a traditional Christmas Eve dish in Poland. Gorgeous red color from beets makes this soup a very festive course. Spice & Tea has all the ingredients to make a spectacular soup.

This year, we’ve been reflecting on our extended family’s diversity and how each of us has brought our own tradition to the larger group, changing the way we celebrate and what we look forward to eating. The holiday season is such a time of tradition and ritual, yet we’ve welcomed new cultures and cusines to our table and have made them our own. Whether you always share turkey and dressing, or never miss making a Christmas Eve favorite, the holiday recipes you prepare each year are a piece of your history and family legacy…the blending of these traditions around the table is what makes the season so incredibly memorable!

Shannon Rene, a retail associate at Spice & Tea of Alexandria, came to loving the richness of spices and her work at Spice & Tea naturally—her father is Creole and from Louisiana, her mother is from Ireland. Shannon’s father was in the Army and they traveled worldwide on his assignments. Her parent’s native cuisines could not have been more different, but they loved to host holiday gatherings.

Shannon Rene, a salesperson at Spice & Tea of Alexandria holds one of her favorite holiday items—sweet and spicy cocoa mixes. Her father is from Lousiana and is Creole, her mother is from Ireland—Shannon’s love of the holidays and spices comes from growing up with blended traditions in the kitchen. Photo by Edible DC.

Shannon Rene, a salesperson at Spice & Tea of Alexandria holds one of her favorite holiday items—sweet and spicy cocoa mixes. Her father is from Lousiana and is Creole, her mother is from Ireland—Shannon’s love of the holidays and spices comes from growing up with blended traditions in the kitchen. Photo by Edible DC.

She says, “Cooking for the holidays was always an all day affair. I remember waking up and my first smells were a boiling ham, and then roast turkey with garlic, thyme, carrots, and onions roasting in the oven. Of course, being an Irish tradition and a must-have holiday dish, there would be several potato dishes because it was the holidays and everyone had a different favorite. This included butter-roasted, garlic mashed or my favorite-home fries with garlic, onion and paprika.

”Then, with what always seemed like magical timing, Army friends would start to arrive bringing with them the holiday foods that they had grown up with, such as bulgogi or tamales. These joined all of our dishes and there was no available space left on the kitchen counters. As the main meal came out of the oven in went dessert, one pecan pie and my Nan’s apple tart.”

In the that spirit of community and embracing diversity, we’re sharing a few of our favorite holiday recipes from around the world with some backstory on each, a link to the recipe and the ingredients you can find at our store to make it complete!

Polish Borscht (Barszcz)

While borscht (a hearty soup made of red beets pictured above) recipes vary across Europe, Polish adaptations have a distinctive and vibrant red hue. Polish borscht is often served as a broth soup during the first course of a Christmas Eve meal over uszka (porcini dumplings) or potatoes. For a heartier winter dish, vegetables are left in to add “meat” to this traditionally vegetarian dish. Onion, garlic, celery and carrots are a few other vegetables that add flavor to this Polish version of Borscht.

Coquito!

Coquito!

Coquito Eggnog

Coquito in Spanish means “little coconut,” which is the highlight of this Puerto Rican eggnog. Often given as a gift, sweet and spiced coquito is a party favorite and decadent Spanish holiday tradition and also for the New Year.

However, coquito isn’t just for the holiday season. It can be consumed any time of year and is celebrated as a signature rum beverage in Puerto Rico, alongside famous Puerto Rican moonshine, pitorro. While coquito begins with the same ingredients, unique and different recipes can be found throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean as families perfect their “secret recipes” to share with friends and loved ones.

A German tradition, these homey and humble cakes are almost like large, soft cookies and redolent of warm spices.

A German tradition, these homey and humble cakes are almost like large, soft cookies and redolent of warm spices.

Lebkuchen

German Lubkuchen (Elisenlebkuchen) is well known around the world as a traditional holiday dessert. Featuring honey and molasses, warm spices and candied fruit, this one-of-a-kind treat harkens back to the spice trade and “honey cakes” commonly enjoyed in monasteries as early as the Middle Ages. Often served with a strong beer, Lebkuchen also took the name of “pepper cakes,” as it was common to include all of your finest “peppers” (then an all-encompassing term used for spices that helped digestion).

Cooking spiced meatballs in a tagine is both a flavorful and colorful way to ring in the winter holidays.

Cooking spiced meatballs in a tagine is both a flavorful and colorful way to ring in the winter holidays.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Spiced Lamb Meatballs from Spice & Tea, are inspired by the blended Jewish traditions of Morocco, North Africa, and Arabic cultures. The presence of parsley, cinnamon, Baharat and ginger gives this dish a strong, authentic North African accent. Serve with warm couscous and naan bread.

Many North African dishes can be prepared in a traditional tagine to cook low and slow (shown in our recipe image). The holes in the tagine serve to release steam during the cooking process. Dishes can also be served in a tagine to add a beautiful display to the dinner table!

Korean families have gathered around a traditional table at holidays for hundreds of years, and bulgogi is a popular favorite.

Korean families have gathered around a traditional table at holidays for hundreds of years, and bulgogi is a popular favorite.

Korean Beef Bulgogi

Bulgogi, a classic Korean grilled beef, is easy to make and traditionally made for sharing and gatherings. This year-round favorite makes its appearance during the holidays, as well as summertime barbecue menus. Bulgogi can be eaten over rice or wrapped in lettuce. However, it is prepared, this thinly sliced, marinated beef is a staple in any Korean cook’s repertoire.

Hot cocoa is a traditional drink at Peruvian winter holidays.

Hot cocoa is a traditional drink at Peruvian winter holidays.

Peruvian Spiced Hot Chocolate
Spiced Hot Chocolate is the center of holiday gatherings in Peruvian culture, and stems from a long tradition of celebrating the country’s rich resource of cocoa. Made with heavy milk or “tres leches” (three types of milk), spices, and rich chocolate, it is often shared with panetón or sweet bread. Although it seems a bit strange, Christmas in Peru falls in the summer season. And while temperatures begin to rise, so does the heat on the saucepan to make this decadent beverage.


The Spice & Tea Exchange® of Alexandria has a wide selection of seasonings for any food lover and dozens of choices for any tea enthusiast. The store offers more than 140 spices, over 80 exclusive hand-mixed blends, 20+ naturally-flavored sugars, an array of salts from around the world and more than 40 exotic teas. We focus on providing high quality products and accessories to home cooks, chefs and tea lovers in an old-world spice traders’ atmosphere.

We enjoy swapping good recipes and fun stories, so stop on by! You’ll typically find us hand-mixing our custom blends and seasonings right in the store, bagging our teas, or putting together unique gifts for our guests.

Spice & Tea Exchange, 320 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 | 571-312-8505

Monday - Friday, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Saturday, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Sunday, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm