Christmas dinner

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This is it! In less than 24 hours, Christmas celebration in every Pinoy household is going full-throttle. Around this time, perhaps even earlier, food preparation is in full swing. With family members and relatives from other parts of the country and even abroad expected to join this year’s family reunion, noche buena has EPIC written all over it!

Christmas, to the uninitiated, is kind of a huge deal to Filipinos. It is the time of the year when our family, relatives and friends gather together to celebrate the birth of Christ. The celebration of Bisperas ng Pasko (Christmas Eve) is an age-old tradition that is NEVER without a ridiculous amount of noche buena food laid out on the table to be shared by everyone after the Midnight Mass.

Yes, Pinoys are undoubtedly food-crazy. And despite our exposure to western dishes, we don’t really stray from the traditional favourites during Christmas. It’s just never done, not even with foreigner friends and family members visiting.

Here are some of the holiday staples Filipinos will never do without during noche buena.

Queso de Bola. Filipinos may be far from being cheese connoisseurs, but this Christmas, we sure are queso de bola lovers – this ball-shaped Edam Cheese coated with red paraffin wax, that’s often at the centrepiece of the noche buena table. Eaten with fruits, warm pan de sal, or chopped up in cubes and mixed together with the macaroni salad, queso de bola is a certified favourite all-around Christmas staple.

Queso de bola

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Hamon or Honeycured Ham. Hardly available during any other time of the year, these sweet-cured hams are almost ubiquitous in all shops and supermarkets during holiday season, much like the queso de bola. A good Christmas ham must be tender, sweet and savoury with a perfect sauce drizzled on top. Or you can do away with the sauce and just dig in, a bottle of beer in hand.

CHRISTMAS HAM

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Bibingka and Puto Bumbong. What better way to say it’s Christmas than to serve bibingka with cheese and salted egg and the  sweet and sticky puto bumbong? Usually available outside churches during simbang gabi, these famous Pinoy delicacies can also be found in most supermarkets.

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Relleno. Relleno of any variant, whether fish or chicken, is always part of a festive Pinoy noche buena table. It’s not an easy dish to prepare and usually takes some time, so the designated chef in the house would be making this dish ahead of the rest, storing it away in the fridge at least a day before Christmas Eve. Or you know, just buy a few rolls from the neighbourhood suking caterer.

rellenong bangus

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Lechon. Remember when celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain called the Philippine’s lechon “the best pig ever”? It’s ‘cause it’s true. Just imagine for a second the perfect combination of crispiness and tenderness, topped off with signature sarsa (Mang Tomas if you’re not keen on making one from scratch) and that overpowering lechon aroma — heaven!

Lechon

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Macaroni Salad. Our version of the cold salad combining macaroni pasta, shredded chicken, pineapple, ham, macaroni, and cubed cheese (Eden cheese or queso de bola).

Pinoy macaroni salad

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Paella. Yes, it’s a known Spanish dish which Pinoys have embraced as their own and is usually served only during special occasions because of the complexity of ingredients and preparation.

Paella

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