Christmas is season to indulge in one’s favorite foods and delicacies. The Philippines is one country that has endless variety of dishes that are popular in family gatherings, especially during the yuletide season. Here’s a list of the dishes that define the Filipino gastronomic experience during the holidays.
Bibingka is traditionally made from eggs, sugar, rice flour and milk. It is usually yellow and brushed with butter. It is also topped with either cheese or salted egg. In some regions, bibingkas is served with grated coconut. Bibingka is so well-loved all over the country that it is difficult to identify its region of origin. Although this popular delicacy is served all throughout the year, it doubles its appeal to Filipinos during the Simba Gabi leading to Christmas.
This delicacy is very popular, especially in the Tagalog region and the rest of Luzon. The name “puto bumbong” derives its name from the way it is traditionally prepared. “Puto” means steamed glutinous rice (specifically the pirurutong variety) while “bumbong” means bamboo. So it glutinous rice cooked in bamboo. This delicacy is usually bland, that’s why it is served mostly with niyog, brown sugar and butter, and is popular during Simbang Gabi until New Year’s Day.
Queso de Bola
Pinoy Christmas is not complete without this ball of cheese that is wrapped in red-colored paraffin wax. Queso de bola is made from goat’s or cow’s milk. It has a salty and sharp taste and is best eaten with pan de sal or crackers.
Hamon comes in variety of flavors, glazes, shapes and sizes. Some are pear-shaped, others are round. Others are sweet while others are a bit salty, depending on its preparation.
Roast pig is the all-time Pinoy favorite whatever the occasion is, especially Christmas. There are different ways to prepare lechon as there are regions in the country. Since this delicacy can be expensive, most households have it on Christmas or New Year’s Day itself. Those who can afford it prepare a whole lechon at their backyard while some buy it per at the store per kilo. To prepare it, a whole pig is skewered, then hand-turned over burning coal for hours until the skin turns red and crispy and the meat tender.
Kare-kare is made from peanut sauce that comes with a beef, stewed oxtail and a variety of vegetables. Goat meat is sometimes used, and in rare occasions, chicken. This dish is popular in the Pampanga region. Sprinkled with lemonsito juice and spiced with chili, kare-kare is usually eaten with shrimp paste (bagoong). A filling treat for hungry Christmas revelers.
This Spanish-influenced dish is made with beef stomach in a red chili base or clear broth. Usually added to the mix are chopped cilantro and chopped onions, lime, crushed red chili peppers and crushed oregano. Popular all over the country, most especially in Luzon, menudo is a staple food during Christmas and New Year.
Sauce-based dish and meatloaf
The Pinoy noche buena is not complete without a sauce-based dish paired with a meatloaf. The dish can either be morcon, or beef roll that’s stuffed with sausages, cheese and egg, or embutido, a meat roll that comes in pork and chicken.
Even before the arrival of fast food chains in the country, fried chicken was already part of the Filipino cuisine, especially during the holidays. Chicken pieces are battered or floured and then deep-fried, pan-fried or pressure-fried.
Spaghetti or Pancit
Superstition has a lot to with this. Influenced by the Chinese, Filipinos believe that noodles will bring long life to those who eat it, or at least it symbolizes it. But whether it’s true or not, spaghetti or pancit sure tastes good. No wonder you’ll often see this dish on Christmas day celebrations.
Fruit salad is the traditional dessert for noche buena and media noche. Every Filipino family has its own version of fruit salad, with each member joining in the preparation. Some include prunes while others include corn in the mix. Cream or mayonnaise is also included in the preparation. The main ingredients, however, are coconut gel (nata de coco), banana, pineapple, apple, mango, cherry and many other fruits that come in a can of fruit cocktail.
Another popular dessert during the holidays in the Philippines is the leche flan, or crème caramel or caramel custard. On top of this dessert is a layer of soft caramel. Leche plan is made of milk and eggs.
With the tasty treats on offer, you will not be surprised many Filipinos will have New Year’s resolution to lose weight at the end of the holidays.