Our best Christmas starter recipes make elegant appetisers to add to your holiday menus that we guarantee will whet the appetites of your guests. We have everything from dainty Thai miang kham and retro Russian devilled eggs to blini with smoked salmon, dill and sour cream and a Khmer raw fish salad that’s essentially a Cambodian style ceviche.
These Christmas starter recipes, which we recommend you add to your repertoire this festive season, include some of our favourite Christmas appetisers, everything from retro Russian hors d’oeuvres that deserve a comeback to traditional Cambodian dishes that we present in an elegant contemporary form.
Our collection of best Christmas starters include mouth-watering appetisers that can be served in bite-size pieces as finger food for stand-up soirees, whether casual or formal, such as our Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns that could be served on petite plates, to elegant starters for sit-down meals, such as our grilled eggplant ‘sandwich’.
These Christmas starter recipes make some of our favourite appetisers and while we cook these year-round, they make impressive dishes that are fantastic for festive meals and holiday feasting. As with our best Christmas salad recipes, some of these are probably not your typical Christmas starters.
You can present our Christmas starter recipes on serving platters or trays or individual plates for sit-down feasts. They will look stunning however you offer them to your guests.
If you enjoy these Christmas appetiser recipes, do bookmark this collection, as we’ll be adding more recipes for appetisers over the next weeks.
Before you scroll down, we have more Christmas recipe collections you may like, including our best Christmas cocktail recipes, best dip recipes for crackers and crudités for festive parties, best Christmas salads, and best desserts for Christmas. We also have homemade edible Christmas gifts you can make and Christmas gifts for food lovers designed with Terence’s mouthwatering images, in our Grantourismo store.
Every day between now and Christmas, we’ll be adding more recipes and recipe compilations for Christmas day breakfast and brunch, Christmas finger food and nibbles, Christmas mains and sides, and ideas for Christmas leftovers, so do bookmark this page, drop by and visit again, or subscribe (bottom of the site).
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Christmas Starter Recipes for Holiday Appetisers from Devilled Eggs to DIY Mimosa Salads
Thai Miang Kham Recipe
This easy Thai miang kham recipe will make you a more elegant version of the kind of miang kham that you can buy from a vendor at a local market – miang kham is traditionally a street food snack after all – pre-packaged from a gourmet supermarket or as an appetiser at a casual Thai restaurant or upmarket café in Thailand’s capital.
While our recipe won’t make you the luxurious takes on miang kham topped with sweet lobster or plump prawns, salmon roe that bursts in your mouth, or even velvety foie gras, which you’ll find at fancy fine dining restaurants in Bangkok, this is a versatile recipe which you can easily up-style if you wish.
After all, it was at a fancy Thai fine diner that we first tasted this traditional street food bite from Northern Thailand, of Mon provenance, said to have been introduced by a Lanna princess to the Siamese royal palace. But it wasn’t at a restaurant in Thailand, it was in Australia, at David Thompson’s restaurant Darley Street Thai in the mid-1990s.
We remember the experience as if it was yesterday – that first bite and the explosion of flavours that we would come to realise were quintessentially Southeast Asian: lime, ginger, coconut, chilli, peanuts, shallots, palm sugar, and dried shrimp, all wrapped up in a wild betel leaf or wild piper leaf. This is easily one of our best Christmas starter recipes.
Russian Devilled Eggs Recipe
This Russian devilled eggs recipe will make you a Russian retro-classic which, like chicken Kiev and beef Stroganoff, spread like wildfire around the world, featuring on formica trays of hors d’oeuvres at every swinging soirée from Sydney to San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s and it’s easily another of our best Christmas starter recipes.
My groovy mum in her maxi-skirt and pig-tails offered Russian devilled eggs as finger food at weekend barbecues and dinner parties. My Russian grandmother preferred to serve whole boiled eggs alongside a jar of Russian caviar, which wasn’t considered the luxury then that it is now. Caviar was just something we ate with eggs – washed down with vodka, of course.
Dating back to Roman times, devilled eggs were a feature of Russian imperial cuisine, laid out on the elaborate spreads of zakuski or hors d’oeuvres on buffet tables overflowing with silver trays of snacks and small plates. Guests would enjoy some bites before they’d enter the sumptuous dining room for the extravagant sit-down banquets of Russia’s emperors.
See Terence’s guide to boiling eggs if you need help in that area, plus there are a few tips to peeling hard boiled eggs in the post below. You could pipe the mix into the egg white using a piping bag, but unless you dice your gherkins and purple shallots super-finely, which you should anyway, the mix will get stuck in the bag.
Cambodian Pomelo Salad with Prawns
This Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns recipe makes a traditional dish that we’ve presented here in a more contemporary style as finger food and and it’s another of our best Christmas starter recipes.
The pomelo is the largest citrus fruit here in Cambodia and is native to Southeast Asia. It’s similar to grapefruit, but it’s less sour and firmer.
The Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns has been a favourite since we moved to Cambodia and it’s a breeze to make. It’s also a fantastic traditional dish that can be served in a more contemporary style for entertaining and that’s just what we like to do.
Salads are almost always a component of a Cambodian meal and the Cambodian pomelo salad with prawns has the fresh, clean flavours you want to accompany a stir-fry, soup, stew or curry. Sometimes served with pork, this version uses large, fresh shrimps for protein.
For our contemporary presentation, we essentially deconstructed the salad, spiking a toothpick through the prawn, a leaf of fresh mint, and the segment of pomelo (on the bottom). We then ground the dried shrimp and sprinkled that, along with grated coconut and peanuts over the individual portions.
Blini with Smoked Salmon, Dill and Sour Cream Recipe
This Russian buckwheat pancakes recipe makes blini with smoked salmon, dill, sour cream, and a ‘caviar’ of gherkin and radish. These are cocktail size blini that are perfect for snacking and entertaining and this is easily another of our best Christmas starter recipes.
This style of blini are more like pikelets than pancakes and while I’m using a ‘caviar’ of gherkin and radish that’s inspired by the Russian dish, ikra, you can, of course serve these blini with proper caviar.
I’m just conscious that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic and some of us (cough cough) may no longer be able to afford the luxury of caviar. These are blini for those of us currently on a Prosecco rather than a Champagne budget!
I ladle the batter directly into the fry pan or skillet, as I don’t mind if the pancakes look home-made and rustic, however, if you’re serving these for a Christmas party, you can do what Terence does and use silicon egg rings to create these perfectly round discs. You might also like to try one of these non-stick pancake pans with moulds.
Traditional Khmer Raw Fish Salad Recipe for the Cambodian Style Ceviche
This traditional Khmer raw fish salad recipe for phlea trei makes a wonderful, light, refreshing, and fragrant fish dish that is Cambodia’s ceviche. It’s one of my favourite Cambodian recipes, one of our best salmon recipes, and one of our best Christmas starter recipes.
The Khmer word trei, also written as trey, means fish, and phlea – also written as phlear, plear, ph’lea, and plea – is a type of raw salad where the fish or meat is generally ‘cooked’ in citrus juice.
It’s usually made with a local firm white fish ‘cooked’ in citrus juice. It’s an ancient Khmer dish that feels contemporary, which is why it can be found on the menus of many of Cambodia’s best Cambodian restaurants here in Siem Reap.
We use salmon for this dish, which is much-loved by Cambodians – one of the biggest pandemic trends in Cambodia has been a passion for salmon; it’s not unusual for Cambodians to pick up some sashimi quality salmon from the supermarket on a Friday evening and indulge in homemade sashimi, with a bottle of wine – but you could certainly use a white fish.
DIY Russian Mimosa Salad Recipe
My Russian mimosa salad recipe is presented a little differently to the layered salad recipe you might recall your parents or grandparents serving in a big glass bowl – almost like a savoury trifle – or as a kitschy salad cake in the 1970s. This more elegant version is another of our best Christmas starter recipes.
Like Russia’s beef Stroganoff and chicken Kiev, the mimosa salad was another Russian dish that travelled the world at a time when most Russians couldn’t leave the Soviet Union, became tremendously popular outside the USSR, especially in the Seventies, and has since been revived as retro-cool classics.
Although perhaps the Russian mimosa salad is not as well-known as beef stroganoff and chicken Kiev and it’s just my wishful thinking that this kitschy layered Soviet-era tuna and egg salad is long overdue for a revival, particularly in the form that I prefer to present it in, rather than as a cake or trifle.
While you could certainly serve this Russian mimosa salad recipe in a big glass with a spoon, I like to provide wooden bowls and an array of condiments and encourage guests to upend the glass of salad into the bowl and add condiments and adjust the seasoning to their liking.
Beef Lok Lak Recipe for Cambodian Pepper Beef
This modern beef lok lak recipe delivers a delicious traditional Cambodian pepper beef dish, made with Kampot Pepper, presented in a more elegant contemporary form than the traditional dish.
This local favourite was one of the inspirations for my creative Cambodian canapés we created for our New Year’s Eve spread some years ago and it’s another of our favourite Christmas starter recipes.
While the presentation of this dish was modern for our canapés, the recipe itself is for an authentic traditional Cambodian dish, albeit one whose provenance is often debated.
Beef lok lak is traditionally served in a mound on the plate or on a bed of lettuce, and thick slices of crunchy green tomatoes are arranged around or to the side of the meat. A runny fried egg is often plopped on top of the beef and sometimes French fries will be served on the side.
For our more contemporary presentation of beef lok lak, we serve neat pieces of beef individually on single slices of green tomato. I spooned a little of the peppery juices over the beef and tomato and pop a fried quail egg on top of each.
Grilled Eggplant Sandwich Recipe with Goats Cheese, Nduja and Sweet Red Capsicum
This grilled eggplant sandwich recipe with goats cheese, ‘nduja and sweet red capsicum is our take on legendary Australian chef Christine Manfield’s iconic eggplant sandwich with goats cheese, pesto and red capsicum and it’s yet another of our best Christmas starter recipes.
In this version, we swap out Northern Italian basil pesto for Southern Italy’s ‘nduja, the spicy spreadable sausage paste from Calabria. If you’re not familiar with the Calabrian sausage, you can read all about ’nduja here.
Christine’s eggplant sandwich dish always went down a treat at our dinner parties just the way it was, however, as Terence was developing some recipes for Calabria’s spicy spreadable pork sausage paste, he had some leftover home-roasted red capsicum that he needed to use up, and we had some lovely locally grown eggplants in the fridge, so thought he’d give this combination a try and it was absolutely delicious.
Both the capsicum and the eggplant slices are smoky from the open fire and the BBQ grill that they are cooked on and they’re a perfect match with the spicy ‘nduja that also has a slight smokiness to it. Goats cheese is a perfect match with the nduja and the basil worked well with the spicy sausage, although rocket would have too.
Please do let us know if you make any of our Christmas starter recipes or Christmas appetiser recipes in the comments below or tag us on social media if you share them, as we’d love to know how they turn out for you.