There are dishes that simply scream ‘Christmas’. Taste, just like smell and sight, can trigger the deepest memories engraved in the back of our mind, and my oh my is nostalgia a great appetizer. If you’re coming back home for the holidays or are hosting dinner for your friends and family, these might be dishes that you’d like to consider for your menu.
- Pinoy Spaghetti
The number one “amoy birthday” dish had to be at the top of this list. I’ll apologize to the Italians first and foremost, because as proven by countless blind tasting videos, Filipinos are just soul-bonded to their national twist of the famous pasta dish. Being a children’s party classic, our taste for Pinoy Spaghetti just doesn’t rub off even if we cross all sorts of lines regarding age.
Make your friends and family smile with something we now only usually get to enjoy when we go to Jollibee, and plaster a big serving of spaghetti with sweet tomato sauce, hotdogs, and cheddar cheese on your table.
- Christmas Ham
If Pinoy Spaghetti is to birthdays, then Christmas ham is to (you guessed it) Christmas. This Western classic holiday dish took the country by a storm since supermarkets introduced it in free taste stalls. Filipinos love that savory-sweet combination, and the Christmas ham just has it all. Unlike the usual Filipino ham we’re used to that is very thin and has a very soft texture that only takes about three chews to ingest, the Christmas ham is thicker with chunks of pork whose strings of meat are still visible when you cut it. Paired with its sweet pineapple sauce, and you have a winner in your Noche Buena.
- Queso de Bola
Cheese is such a flexible ingredient to have lying around the house. Queso de Bola just offers itself as yassified cheese that only comes out during Christmas, no longer being an ingredient, but the star of the show. This Edam cheese wrapped in red wax can be eaten as is, perfect with red wine. You can also eat it with your Christmas ham, or use it later on as toppings for your pasta dish. Either way, it’s just nice to have something on the dining table that resembles a Christmas ball that belongs to your tree.
- Fruit Salad
It’s either this or buko pandan if you’re walking into a Filipino event. You can never go wrong with fruit salad, being the mother of desserts in any festivity you can think of. With three simple ingredients – fruit cocktail, sweetened condensed milk and all-purpose cream – you’ll complete the table after offering the one sweet dish that isn’t also savory to your loved ones.
- Lechon Belly
You can’t really have a party without the national dish on your menu, right? For a more affordable option, you can get lechon belly for less than half the price of an entire lechon. With the same crunchy skin everyone fights over, and arguably the best part of lechon with the perfect combination of lean and fat, you get it all with lechon belly. From the very first sniff you take, you can already taste the delicious meat to be dipped in either Mang Tomas or soy sauce and vinegar.
- Lechon Manok
Some families just can’t have only one type of lechon. If you want both or are just looking for a cheaper alternative for lechon belly, you can always get a whole roasted chicken to add something to your array of Christmas dishes. Make your guests’ night with your favorite roasted chicken resting on the juices of the meat and its seasonings at the bottom of the tin foil.
- Fried Chicken with Gravy
While not being a traditional Filipino set-up for Christmas, a lot of families do incorporate fried chicken in their holiday menu. This is a cheaper alternative to the big batches of food that only end up getting frozen until the new years especially for smaller crowds. Despite that, it is still enough to fill the bellies of your guests and leave a smile on their faces, especially if you pair it with delicious gravy, either handmade by you or just cooked with gravy powder. If you choose to have this along with Pinoy spaghetti, then you have the perfect Jollibee-esque Noche Buena, and I can promise you that your loved ones wouldn’t complain.
- Macaroni Salad
This is one of the very few sweet and savory Filipino dishes served cold that I can think of. On paper, macaroni, all-purpose cream, chicken, and cheese may sound a little weird, but if you’re someone who’s familiar with this on Filipino occasions, then you know it does not miss. Contrary to the famous fruit salad, this one has a little tanginess with the cheese, but all the flavors just work so well and taste best straight from the refrigerator.
This Filipino classic is packed with different flavors and textures, and most of all, when you slice through it, it looks so festive. The ground meat still carries a sweet flavor along with raisins, hotdogs, and boiled eggs, and even their colors resemble those we are familiar with during the holidays. The red from the hotdogs, the yellow and white from the eggs, and the black from the raisins all remind us of a Santa Claus cosplay. Not only that, it tastes amazing too.
- Leche Flan
Another Filipino sweet dish that is finally supposed to be dessert is the Leche Flan. The caramel custard is well-loved by Filipinos with its delicious egg and milk base, all topped with melted sugar. These ingredients combined together smell like Christmas and taste like love. It’ll surely leave a sweet taste in the mouths of your loved ones, and a very pleasant smell in your home too if you’re cooking with the entire house closed.
Whether you’re going all out or are on a budget, having two or three of these dishes will already take everyone you’re serving home. What’s important is a thought-out menu that not only brings nostalgia, but the entire group together which is exactly what Christmas is about.