No Filipino celebration is ever complete without food. Birthdays are observed with Pinoy-style spaghetti and hotdogs on sticks with marshmallows. On All Saints Day, families feast over bowls of ginataan after visiting their loved ones in the cemetery. Whenever there is a fiesta, households go all out and put their kawa or big kawali to work, cooking stews and pancit to feed the whole barangay.
Christmas is no different. As early as September, not only will you hear shopping malls play holiday carols or offer Christmas deals, but you will also start seeing the items that usually make the Noche Buena table. Here’s the typical ensemble.
Traditional dishes Filipinos enjoy during Christmas
Bigger families often deck their tables with lechon or cochinillo or porchetta, but perhaps the most popular pork for the majority come Christmas season still remains to be the holiday ham, where the hind leg of a pig is seasoned, baked, and oftentimes, glazed.
Queso de bola
The stark red wax-covered ball is hard to miss. It’s Edam cheese, a semi-hard kind named after a town in the province of North Holland in the Netherlands. It is typically sliced into wedges, and eaten as is or with ham in a pandesal, grated on ensaymada, or turned into a sandwich spread.
Castañas are chestnuts, and the one found in the Philippines is mostly of the Chinese variety. You can easily find them peddled on the streets come the holidays. The nuts are roasted in big woks with small volcanic stones acting as the heat conductor to evenly cook them.
Be it the festive color or the convenience to make it, the Filipino fruit salad is a popular dessert come Christmas time. Just crank open a can of fruit cocktail then toss in sweetened cream and you’re done. Some varieties include threads of fresh coconut meat or even cheese.
It’s a favourite early morning snack after attending Simbang Gabi. And they are often hard to resist as you can see them being made right outside the church. It comes in many forms but the popular one is the salted egg-studded, banana leaf-lined kind that’s baked in a terracotta oven.
It’s either the sidekick or the nemesis of bibingka since they are typically sold and/or served together. Puto bumbong is a purple-hued tubular rice cake that’s been steamed then topped with coconut, margarine and sugar.
It is available all year round but this soft, sweet dough pastry covered with butter and sugar then topped with lots of grated cheese is enjoyed a lot during the holidays, warmed, and dunked in a mug of hot tsokolate.
Tsokolate de Batirol
It’s no eggnog, but it’s a warm beverage Filipinos enjoy having especially before we ring in the New Year. Enjoyed together with ensaymada, the tsokolate de batirol is the Filipino’s hot chocolate made with tablea and mixed with a traditional wooden tool with a ridged end.