Bat, dog meat for Christmas

Updated: 2006-12-25 11:11

SINGAPORE - Dogs, bats, Kentucky Fried Chicken and barramundi will grace dinner tables across the Asia Pacific this Christmas, a festival celebrated with lots of cheer, and very little turkey, in this mainly non-Christian region.

Vietnamese women sell roast dog at a streetcorner market in Hanoi in this January 5, 2006 file photo. [Reuters]
Christmas Day is seen as a foreign, Western festival in many countries in Asia but that doesn't stop millions of people from cooking up banquets of local food unheard of in the West.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country which also has a substantial Christian community, Christmas feasts include delicacies such as pork soaked in blood and dog meat.

"We usually hold a family gathering at our parents' house or in-laws' house after Christmas eve mass," said Ermida Simanjuntak, a Batak Christian Indonesian. "We do not exchange gifts, we use this event more to meet and talk."

In the eastern island of Sulawesi, some Manado Christians swear by kawok, or garden rats, cooked with chilies and garlic, and paniki, or bats, cooked in coconut milk.

"Paniki's meat tastes almost the same as kawok but it has more muscles," said Manadonese Stephen Lapian. "But if you cut the arm pit in a wrong way, it will be very stinky."

In Japan, many people head to Kentucky on Christmas - Kentucky Fried Chicken, that is.

The fast food joints do a roaring trade over the Christmas period, with restaurants turning away customers on December 24 if they haven't booked their chicken in advance.

"Over the period from 23rd to 25th December, sales can be as high as ten times normal levels," said Sumeo Yokokawa, of the public relations department at Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan.

The Kentucky Christmas habit started in 1974, after a foreign customer mentioned to a store manager that he had come to buy fried chicken because he was unable to find turkey in Japan. His words inspired a sales campaign that paid off.

"The fashion at the time was to have a nice American-style Christmas," said Yokokawa. "So we offered the chicken as a set with a bottle of wine and it was very popular."

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