Celebrating Christmas in the Philippines always calls for a feast. With our streets festooned with flashing parols and twinkling holiday lights, families gather around dinner tables as soon as clocks hit midnight. As one of their parents say grace, the kids feign calm but fidget in excitement upon the sight of the spread on laid out before. What did they see? Probably one of these eight delicious classics.
1. Christmas Ham
In the Philippines, we like our food on the sweeter side. That’s why our Christmas hams are encrusted in either a brown sugar crumble, or blanketed with a syrupy glaze. It’s usually eaten on its own, fried to add some flavor, or enjoyed with bread and kesong puti (goat’s cheese).
2. Keso de Bola
Keso de Bola is our localized name for Edam cheese, which is from the Netherlands. Enclosed in a red paraffin shell, it usually doubles as a centerpiece during Christmas dinners. It was first brought to the Philippines by a Swedish doctor who immigrated to our country.
3. Pancit Malabon
This yellow-colored noodle dish flavored with annatto seeds is quite festive in appearance, and exceptionally tasty in flavor. Loaded with eggs, shrimp, and chicharon, Pancit Malabon never fails to satisfy even the hungriest of bellies.
4. Sweet Spaghetti
As compared to tangy Italian red sauces, Filipino-style spaghetti (also known as Sweet Spaghetti) is heavy on the sugar. The inclusion of bright red hot dog bits and processed cheese is also a requirement. It may sound weird to foreigners, but hey, it works!
This bit demands less of an explanation. The star of every Christmas table, this roasted pig with crunchy, oily skin will win (and clog!) the hearts of everyone at dinner.
6. Buko Pandan
Though pandan leaves are widely used in savory dishes, this dessert uses pandan-flavored gelatin that’s mixed with coconut and cream. The result is this festive green-and-white treat that’s often enjoyed during the holidays.
Because we love rice so much here in the Philippines, we even turned it into a dessert. Kakanin refers to a wide assortment of sticky sweet goodies that come in a range of colors and flavors. From the Christmas-y Puto Bumbong and Bibingka to the every day Sumanand Kutsinta, we never tire of our sweet rice treats.
8. Fruit Salad
This is one of the simplest desserts to prepare. Simply buy a can of fruit cocktail and mix in some all-purpose cream, and you have a 5 minute dessert to complete your Christmas dinner. Some families also add a twist to the fruit salad by adding tapioca or coconut. There are no rules, add what you like.
The holidays are the perfect time to get together with relatives and hold reunions with friends. If you want to ensure a memorable handaan, celebrate it Pinoy-style. It’ll give you something to look forward to other than just the opening of presents. Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)
(Image credits: Pepper.ph; Pepper.ph)