Cover Photo: Libby Penner/ Unsplash

Are these your Noche Buena favourites, too?

Filipinos love a good party, and nothing is grander and more anticipated than the Christmas Eve feast we call Noche Buena. From the time we were little, there are scents and flavours that signal the beginning of the most festive time of the year. However, the eating does not begin on Christmas Eve and end on Christmas Day now, does it? The food-gifting and the feasting is a month-long celebration and with all the delicious things getting passed around, we really do need more time.

If you are Filipino, have Filipino roots, or simply enjoy celebrating Christmas the Pinoy way, then you would surely have some—if not all—of these dishes on your holiday table.

See also: Pinoy Christmas Must-Haves: 7 Decor Items That Highlight the Holiday Spirit

1. Christmas Ham

This usually means a cooked ham with a sticky, sweet glaze and it is the centrepiece of the Noche Buena celebration. There are affordable shaped hams you can pick up from the supermarket aisles. Some are boneless balls wrapped in fat to ensure moisture and flavour; others are cured, then smoked, before getting baked with the leg bone still on. Your choice is usually based on tradition, then it is sliced thinly and served as a sandwich, tucked into warm pandesal or sliced bread.

See also: Filipino Food: What Is The Ilocos Empanada?

2. Bibingka

Tatler Asia
Bibingka (Photo: Instagram / @foxyfolksy)
Above Bibingka (Photo: Instagram / @foxyfolksy)

There is also bibingkang kanin which is a sticky rice dessert, but these bibingka galapong are the fluffy rice cakes usually found cooked in banana leaves over a charcoal stove outside of churches during midnight mass. These are topped with desiccated coconut, brown sugar, and melted butter.

See also: It’s Never Too Early for Bibingka: Where to Order Classic Galapong, Triple-Layer Cakes, and More

3. Puto Bumbong

Tatler Asia
Puto Bumbong (Photo: Instagram / @my_kusina_ph)
Above Puto Bumbong (Photo: Instagram / @my_kusina_ph)

Also made out of rice but dyed a distinct bright purple, these sticky rice snacks are made from black glutinous rice called “pirurutong.” They are usually steamed in bamboo tubes in a custom-made aluminium steamer and served with desiccated coconut, brown sugar, and butter – yes, just like bibingka as they are usually sold in tandem outside churches during the Christmas season.

See also: Why Is Filipino Cuisine One Of The Richest Food Cultures In The World

4. Chicken Relleno

Tatler Asia
Chicken Relleno (Photo: Instagram / @kusinanimaria)
Above Chicken Relleno (Photo: Instagram / @kusinanimaria)

Sometimes called chicken gallantina, although technically a galantine is a chicken completely deboned and stuffed, slowly simmered in a broth and served cold. Chicken relleno is deboned except for the bird’s limbs (making it the more festive choice, in my opinion), filled traditionally with ground pork, Vienna sausage, gherkins, raisins, and hardboiled egg, roasted, and then served warm with an aromatic brown gravy.

See also: Get The Best Hainanese Chicken Rice, Here

5. Fruit Salad

It is the quintessential Christmas dessert. You will know the season has officially begun when the supermarket aisles are lined with tinned fruit cocktail and all-purpose cream. The standard Filipino fruit salad is simply those two ingredients sweetened with condensed milk. Some also choose to add other preserved fruits such as nata de coco and macapuno, or fresh fruit like shredded fresh coconut, apples, and bananas.

See also: Where To Buy Egg Tarts: 7 Bakeries That Have Perfected This Pastry

6. Macaroni Salad

This cold mayonnaise-based salad is a Christmas favourite not only because it is an amazing side dish to your ham sandwich, but it is perfect for a potluck. You can make it the night before, chill it in the fridge packed in your favourite airtight container, and take it to the party the next day without much fuss. Besides, this makes for the ideal Christmas morning breakfast, no cooking required.

See also: 11 Filipino Breakfast Foods To Help You Start Your Day Off Right

Tatler Asia
Macaroni Salad (Photo: Instagram / @foxyfolksy)
Above Macaroni Salad (Photo: Instagram / @foxyfolksy)

7. Fruit Cake

Love it or hate it, fruit cake is probably the oldest Christmas food tradition dating back to Roman times. Elaborately flavoured with preserved fruits soaked in brandy, nuts, and spices, it gained popularity in the 1800s when it became a favourite holiday gift. Perhaps tastes have changed and mass-produced fruit cake gave this holiday food its current bad reputation, but somehow, even in the Philippines, it is not quite Christmas without it.

See also: Where To Buy Boozy Desserts

Tatler Asia
Nostalgic Filipino Food Photo Instagram / @veganconfectionsph
Above Nostalgic Filipino Food Photo Instagram / @veganconfectionsph

8. Ensaymada

These fluffy balled pastries topped with whipped butter, sugar, and ideally grated queso de bola, is a favourite for gifting and always has a place on the Filipino holiday table. The best ones have an airy crumb that is also moist, with that sweet and salty flavour from its toppings. While nothing quite beats the classic, fresh takes on this Filipino pastry come stuffed with chorizo, ham, ube, or even topped with Nutella.

See also: Ensaymadas: Where To Get Them In And Around The Metro

Tatler Asia
Ensaymada (Photo: Instagram / @cafemarygrace)
Above Ensaymada (Photo: Instagram / @cafemarygrace)

9. Queso de Bola

Tatler Asia
Queso de bola (Photo: Instagram / @marcapinacheese)
Above Queso de bola (Photo: Instagram / @marcapinacheese)

While Edam cheese is readily available in your neighbourhood deli all year round, you need to get it in ball form wrapped in red wax as part of your Noche Buena spread come Christmas. It is the fitting companion to your sliced ham and pandesal, and the rest of it end up in dishes throughout the holidays grated over pasta, mixed into kaldereta, or even just munched on to accompany all the wine you received from thoughtful friends.

See also: 9 Places to Buy Artisanal Bottled Fish and Spreads in Metro Manila

10. Pinoy Spaghetti

Tatler Asia
Pinoy Spaghetti (Photo: Instagram / @mommy.issa325)
Above Pinoy Spaghetti (Photo: Instagram / @mommy.issa325)

With all the complex stews and exotic holiday dishes, this children’s party classic is a reliable standby for the little picky eaters. Affordable and simple to make, the happy memories attached to the sweet tomato sauce adorned with hotdogs and local cheddar always adds to the festive mood. Besides, let’s admit it— we never really outgrow Pinoy spaghetti.

See also: Where to Order Fresh Pasta: Squid Ink Tagliatelle, Truffle Ricotta Ravioli, and More

11. Callos

Tatler Asia
Callos (Photo: Instagram / @partyplateph)
Above Callos (Photo: Instagram / @partyplateph)

Historically, this ox tripe stew is peasant food in Spain because it utilises a part of the cow that is usually thrown out. However, the laborious task of cleaning, boiling, and preparing this dish has made it a beloved favourite worthy of a spot on the holiday table. That thick, gelatinous sauce acts as a luxuriant pool for the tender ox tripe, deboned trotters, chorizo, and chickpeas that are scooped up with crusty bread. But, in the Philippines, it would be amiss to not pair it with lots of hot rice.

See also: Where To Buy Home-Cooked Callos This 2021

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.