10 quintessential Filipino food for every Christmas celebration
While Christmas is centered around traditions and the warmth of family, it goes without saying that what makes these yuletide gatherings extra special are Filipino holiday food staples, whether ones we prep at home or those we see and buy from the streets.
It’s these filling and heart-warming dishes that remind us of just how festive, inviting, and truly unique the Filipino way of celebrating Christmas is.
Here are 10 must-have Noche Buena items that you should be stocking up on as early as now because they or their ingredients are sure to be flying off the shelves once those Christmas bonuses come in.
The prized centerpiece is as beloved as Santa’s rounded belly or the quintessential all-year-round staple lechon.
One Chinese ham brand, Excelente Ham, in Quiapo, draws crowds leading up to the holiday festivities for their selection of pre-cooked and sweet and savory meat products.
Ham slices also feature prominently in other Filipino dishes past Dec. 25 because it has a stable shelf life and, well, because it is really good.
Our obsession with serving round food items doesn’t end with the hamon. There’s also the Queso de Bola, which is a descendant of the Dutch cheese called Edam. It is popularly known for its festive red wax cover used to preserve it and its nutty and slightly sweet taste.
You know it’s Christmas when you start to see bibingka stalls popping up on the streets. The rice cake made out of galapong or glutinous rice flour is made special with the addition of cheese and slices of salted duck eggs.
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Of course, bibingka’s partner puto bumbong also makes the list. Sold traditionally alongside bibingka and cooked over improvised steaming pipes, the vibrant purple puto bumbong is best enjoyed with a slather of butter and a sprinkling of grated coconut meat and muscovado sugar.
Chesnuts or castañas roasting over hot stones make an inviting sound as well as a distinct aroma that is reminiscent of breezy December days. You’ll have to peel through a hard shell to get to its edible core but all worth it for that sweet and nutty taste.
While its origins point to Italian and American influences, Filipinos were able to make macaroni salad distinctly ours with a spin, combining sweet and savory ingredients to make a beloved pasta dish that’s as quintessentially Filipino as our sweet spaghetti.
Nights leading up to festivities, families would fill freezer-safe containers with a cacophony of fruits, jellies, and dairy products for a dessert best enjoyed cold like ice cream but with bits that make this Filipino Christmas food even more enjoyable to eat.
We Filipinos love our carbs, so other than pasta, and of course, rice and rice-derived cakes, we also serve soft brioche buns slathered with buttercream and sprinkled with delicate strands of grated cheese for a sweet-salty treat.
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With colder weather, we long for something comforting like a hot cup of chocolate. Tablea de cacao or cacao coins are traditionally melted over a fire and poured in milk or just mixed with water to warm our appetite for weeks of holiday eating.
Love it or hate it, this polarizing cake has earned its spot on Filipino holiday tables for its unique harmony of ingredients that include assorted nuts, dried fruits, and liquor infused in a sweet batter. It doesn’t hurt that it makes any spread look festive, too.