This glistening, glazed centrepiece is the star of the Noche Buena feast. It is not quite Christmas in the Philippines without ham

Christmas in the Philippines is steeped in tradition; it is arguably the country’s favourite holiday. From the symbolic decor to the religious rituals, to a mouthwatering Noche Buena meal (or Christmas Eve dinner), these are the things we look forward to whenever the holidays come around.

In the centre of all this feasting is the Christmas ham. Of course, this being the most wonderful time of the year, it cannot be just any slab of cured pork. Traditionally, this is a cooked ham, shiny and sticky with a sweet, golden brown glaze, and probably the biggest one you can afford.  It is sliced thin and eaten as a sandwich with warm pandesal or white bread. Decadent and nostalgic, it tastes exactly like Christmas.

Here is a list of our favourites: 

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1. The Plaza

Inspired by Swedish holiday ham but tweaked for the Filipino palate, it is made out of the softest fresh pork that is first cured in a special formula and then lightly smoked to impart the aroma of secret herbs and spices. This is then baked low and slow and blanketed with a lush glaze. The meat is juicy and well seasoned, so all you really need is a touch of that premium glaze to impart the Christmas feels.

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2. Majestic

Since 1956, these seasoned (pun intended) ham makers have been following the same traditional process when preparing their bone-in hams. These are cured in oak barrels for six months, smoked using mango and star applewood, and then air-dried for three days. After washing off the excess salt, their hams are boiled for hours with star anise, bay leaves, and sugar. After these are glazed with refined sugar, they are ready for your Noche Buena table. Is it worth all the trouble? The generations of fans say it is.

3. Excelente Chinese Cooked Ham

This trusted name has been around since 1972 and their original store in Quiapo is notorious for its long lines days before Christmas Eve. Chinese-style hams are known to be more on the salty side, but Excelente prides itself on being on the right side of salty and sweet, plus the most tender and moist meat. Recent events call for smaller gatherings making the smaller boneless cooked hams more popular.

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4. Adelina’s

When Vincente and Adelina Uy started selling their Chinese ham in Mandaluyong more than seventy years ago, it was merely to set their grocery apart from the other stores along the busy commercial street. To their fans who grew up with the brand, they swear that Adelina’s honey-cured hams have maintained their quality over the years which explains why this continues to be a lucrative business for the third generation of Uys.

5. Cibo

For those who have grown weary of the usual Christmas hams, Asia’s best female chef Margarita Forés offers a fresh take on this holiday staple. Cibo’s boneless Italian style ham is fragrant with the aromas of an orange glaze and the warmth of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. These are available in select supermarkets and in limited amounts, so keep an eye on their social media platforms for more information about these prized balls of ham.

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6. China Mommy

Mother’s cooking is definitely the best, and how sad it would have been if this cult favourite was not available this year. Good thing this cooking mama, Linda Co insisted it would be a disservice to her fans not to offer her boneless hams during the holidays. Ever since they introduced it through their online business two years ago, it has been a hit with her regulars who are besotted with her Filipino-Chinese comfort food.

7. Säntis Delicatessen

This one-stop shop for all your gourmet food finds also has their own version of this holiday favourite. Their boneless honey-cured ham is juicy and moist as well as great value for money so it is a lovely gift for the food lovers in your life. 

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8. Dayrit’s

Dayrit's Farmer’s ham is prepared by first air-drying and then smoking the meat, its distinct flavour coming from juniper branches. This ham purveyor is more known year-round for their roast beef and burgers, but when the holidays come around, it is all about their juicy, glazed hams. Make sure to reserve early as these are produced in limited quantities.

9. Sunday Morning

This glorious cerveza negra pork belly ham stands apart from the usual for a number of things. First— it utilises pork belly which means every slice comes with juicy, jiggly fat. Second— it is blanketed in a deep and complex glaze that is a combination of dark beer, sweet fig, and aromatic truffle. Then finally, Sunday Morning’s hams come in two sizes: 400 grams for a cozy party of two to three, or three kilos for a grand get-together. Seems like they thought of everything.

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10. Seda Hotel

The artisanal hams of the popular hotel chain are now available in Metro Manila, Nuvali, and Cebu. These are boneless and sold at just over a kilo each, and then generously glazed with pure Palawan honey. This gives the crust that delightful crunch while enveloping a juicy, meaty interior that is lean yet tender.


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