INFOGRAPHIC: The 12 Dishes of Christmas in a Filipino Noche Buena

Let the Noche Buena take your celebrations up a notch!

Given the large Catholic and Christian populations in the country, Christmas is a holiday that is well-celebrated by many Filipinos. Along with it are the traditions that still exist up to date, which include Christmas carols, putting up Christmas decorations, big family reunions, a series of simbang gabi, and of course, the beloved Noche Buena which comes after the mass of Christmas Eve.

The word Noche Buena is a Spanish phrase that translates to "The Good Night." It consists of the traditional food dinner, and because Filipinos are huge food lovers, it is one of the Christmas traditions that everyone is looking forward to. So if you want to know more about these stars of the holiday, here’s our list of the nice and nummy dishes common to the Filipino Noche Buena table!

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1. Ham
A Christmas feast is never complete without a hamon or ham, gracing the table. This tradition is believed to have started from the Germanic people, later influencing other countries. Hams are mostly salty and sweet, and it is no surprise that many Filipinos prefer to lean more of the latter, choosing variants with pineapple glaze or sweet sauce on the market. A slice of this cured delicacy is perfect to pair with your platter of rice or with your queso de bola to make up a delish sandwich.

2. Queso de Bola
Bringing more color to the table is the red and round queso de bola, another Noche Buena staple. Globally known as Edam cheese which originated in the Netherlands, queso de bola is a spherical cheese coated with red paraffin wax designed by the Dutch for long voyages. With its non-spoil properties, it was widely consumed by officers of the galleons during the 17th through 19th century expeditions and was sold in colonized countries like the Philippines.

3. Lechon
Filipinos' must-have dish during big celebrations is the lechon. Who can resist its red crispy skin and juicy meat dipped in sársa? A popular dish in Spain that the colonizers brought here in the Philippines, lechon came from the Spanish word “leche,” meaning milk, which refers to the roasted suckling pig. Soon, bigger pigs were being used, catering to more people for bigger festivities.

4. Leche Flan
Christmas is also a good excuse for you to indulge in the sweetest desserts available. Another delicacy brought here by the Spaniards, this sweet treat is a baked mixture of milk, caramelized sugar, and egg yolk. Today, leche flan is a crowd favorite especially to the sweet-toothed Pinoys.

5. Buko Salad/Fruit Salad
Besides the leche flan, these salads drenched in a mixture condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream are decadent treats just too sweet to deny. Popular mix-ins for these desserts are fruit cocktail, grated coconut, nata de coco (coconut gel), kaong (sugar palm fruit) and/or pineapple chunks.

6. Macaroni Salad
Served cold, the classic macaroni salad is a combination of elbow macaroni pasta and mayonnaise with diced carrots and potatoes usually thrown into the mix. Some also put pineapple chunks, cheese, and/or raisins in this dish.

7. Filipino Style spaghetti
Unlike its Italian counterpart, the Filipino style spaghetti is a lot sweeter, with banana ketsup also added to the recipe. It also has slices of hotdog, which is the Pinoy equivalent to the Americans’ meatballs. Apparently, Filipinos like their bolognese saucy and meaty, with cheese gratings to top it off. Being a common favorite among the younger ones, a Filipino style spaghetti is a must-have during Christmas celebrations.

8. Pancit
Given its affordable ingredients that can cater to a large group of guests, the pancit has always been one of the most popular Filipino dishes served during celebrations, be it big or small. And Christmas Eve is no exception, with a platter of pancit on the table not only do the Filipino families enjoy this noodle dish, there’s also this popular belief that the dish will bring them longer lives.

9. Bibingka
It is also ideal to have the popular Filipino delicacies on your table this Christmas Eve. After attending the mass, stalls right outside the church are waiting for you to take their bibingka and puto bumbong home. The bibingka, a glutinous rice cake with salted egg and cheese mix-ins is usually cooked on clay pots lined with banana leaves. While it is being cooked from beneath the pot, a steel plate with burning coals is also placed above it for an evenly-baked rice cake. It is also topped with niyog (grated mature coconut) to add flavor and texture.

10. Puto Bumbong
This steamed rice cake is popular for its appealing purple color. Puto is the general term to Filipino rice cakes while bumbong refers to the bamboo tubes where the puto bumbong is being steamed. It takes its color from the sticky purple rice and long grain purple rice, which are ground together with glutinous white rice. This combination will then produce a purple powder which will be inserted into the bamboo tubes. The steam will then turn it into the puto bumbong that we all know and love, topped with a generous amount of niyog and sugar.

11. Gelatin
Locally known as gulaman, the gelatin is a yummy dessert that also adds life to the Christmas table with a variety of colors available in the market. Made from seaweed extract, it is sold in bars or powder which can be dissolved in hot water and then mixed with milk and sugar for a richer result. While it is taking its time to get solid, diced fruits and cheese are also popular mix-ins which can be added into the mixture.

12. Hot Chocolate
The cold breeze that the season brings makes the holidays perfect for a cup of hot chocolate. Make it more Filipino by using the locally-loved variant, tsokolate tablea. Put some marshmallows and let the sweet and strong flavors of the drink seep into the squishy confectionery.

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