The Filipino Way of Noche Buena
Noche Buena is a Spanish word referring to the night of Christmas eve. It is usually celebrated in evening consists of a traditional dinner with family in Spain, Puerto Rico, Latin America and also the Philippines. Filipinos usually do the Noche Buena at midnight after the family has attended the late evening Christmas Eve Mass or Misa de Gallo. Relatives are also reunited in their Ancestral House to celebrate Christmas together by having this Noche Buena added with fun singing of christmas carols, exuberant dancing, and persistent storytelling. Listed below are some of the popular dishes served on the dining table during Noche Buena.
Lechon is a Spanish word meaning “suckling pig”. In the Philippines, Lechon always means a whole roasted pig commonly known as Lechon Baboy. The lechon is a popular dish in any of the festivities in the Philippines such as fiestas, holiday seasons, and special occasions like birthdays, weddings, and other family gatherings. It is said that celebrations are not complete without the lechon as the table’s centerpiece. It is always served with a liver-based sauce making it more tasteful and delicious.
In the Philippines, ham, or hamon as it is called (from the Spanish jamón), is normally associated with the Yuletide season. There are local variants of Jamón Serrano, and there is Hamon de Bola, which is a ball-shaped wet cured ham, among other varieties. There is also tinned processed ham—the type in cans—available year round in groceries. The main Christmas ham, similar to a Chinese ham and served on some Noche Buenas, is similar to a dry cured one, and it has to be cooked in a special sweet broth after being soaked to reduce the salt. Then the ham is scored and glazed, and roasted. Hamon de Bola, produced by the major Philippine food manufacturers, is usually offered as gifts to employees in most companies and government offices during the Yuletide season. This can be either baked or fried. As with the other dishes “localized” from foreign sources, the Philippine palate favors the sweeter variety of ham.
3. QUESO DE BOLA
Queso de Bola is the Filipino term, from Spanish, for Edam cheese. The term literally translates to “ball cheese”. It is a Dutch cheese in a spherical shape (usually slightly flattened at the top and bottom) and coated with red wax. With its festive appearance, it is a favorite at Christmas time especially as part of Noche Buena.
Bibingka, above, is a rice cake similar to the Western pancake in appearance. In taste, texture and way of cooking, however, they are very much different from each other. Bibingka is made from galapong, baked in a special clay pot, lined with a piece of banana leaf, with live coals on top and underneath. It is topped with slices of kesong puti (white cheese) and itlog na maalat (salted duck eggs). The newly-cooked bibingka is spread with butter and sometimes sprinkled with sugar then served with niyog (grated coconut). Galapong is glutinous rice soaked in water then ground with the water to form either a batter or a dough, depending on what the cooked dish is supposed to be.
5. PUTO BUMBONG
Puto bumbong is a dish made from purpled-colored ground rice cooked in bamboo tubes that are placed on a special steamer-cooker. Then, they are removed from the bamboo tubes, spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar and niyog (grated coconut). They are then wrapped in wilted banana leaves which will keep them warm and moist until ready to be eaten.
6. LECHE FLAN
Because filipinos are also fan of sweets, this leche flan above is also served in the dining table during Noche Buena. It is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top, as opposed to crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top. It also symbolizes for a sweet relationship between the members of the family.
Pancit or pansit is the term for noodles in Filipino cuisine. Noodles were introduced into the Philippines by the Chinese and have since been adopted into local cuisine. Its long strand serve as a symbol of long life and prosperity.
SOURCES: wikipilipinas.com and casaveneracion.com