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The Best Filipino Christmas Dishes

An educator and researcher, Patty has degrees in psychology, sports, and medicine. She has traveled extensively for work.

The Christmas Star is seen everywhere from December 16 through the first Sunday in January, when the Wise Men traditionally followed the Star to the Baby Jesus.

The Christmas Star is seen everywhere from December 16 through the first Sunday in January, when the Wise Men traditionally followed the Star to the Baby Jesus.

A Long Christmas Season

The Philippines has been called the Land of Fiestas, and the Christmas season among the largely Roman Catholic population is likely the biggest fiesta of the year.

One of the most common decorations during the long Christmas season is the parol, or star lantern, which is made of bamboo into the shape of a stylized star and often lighted. Parols decorate the exterior of commercial buildings as well as the interior of private homes. These lanterns help to take the place of pine trees, which are scarce in the islands.

Music is an important part of the local Christmas season, as well. Westernized Christmas carols are played in the stores as early as October in Manila and other cities, signaling the beginning of the shopping season. However, a sad song begins to play nearer to the official start date. This is known as Pasko na Sinta Ko.

Masses and Parols

Christianity predominates in the Philippines and special church services commemorate the birth of Christ, beginning on December 16 with pre-dawn services.

There are ninne such masses, called Simbang Gabi (night masses) for the nine days before Christmas and Misas de Aguinaldo (gift masses) on December 24 in the evening.

Many Filipinos attend all the early masses at this time. Simbang Gabi is believed to have begun in Mexico, from where missionaries from Spain traveled on to the Philippines in the 1600s and began 4:00 a.m. masses for the agricultural society that needed to be in the fields at sunrise. Thus, the tradition is 400-plus years old.

The Christmas star, symbolized by the parol all over the land and representing the Star of Bethlehem followed by the Three Wise Men in the New Testament if the Bible is everywhere during this time. Banners, buntings, and streamers are also everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Santa Claus is often seen during this season in the Philippines.

Along with the traditional services and decorations of Christmas in the islands, there are certain traditional foods.

This bibingka uses chicken and duck eggs and is topped with a mild white cheese and coconut.

This bibingka uses chicken and duck eggs and is topped with a mild white cheese and coconut.

Bibingka

For many, many celebrants at the midnight masses, this is a very simple recipe for the party afterward. Some recipes are more complex and use chicken and duck eggs as well, to form a custard.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups rice (or 1 box of rice flour)
  • 1 (12-oz) can coconut milk (divided into 1 cup and ¼ cup)
  • 1 pound dark brown sugar
  • Banana leaves
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Instructions

  1. Preheat electric oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook on the stovetop or in a rice cooker.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk and 1 ¼ cups of the brown sugar. Stir.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (15-20 minutes).
  5. Wilt the banana leaves over low heat on an electric stove and use them to line a 13” by 9” baking pan.
  6. Put rice into a large bowl with 1 cup coconut milk and the rest of the brown sugar, stirring well.
  7. Place rice mixture into the pan and top with 1/2 cup coconut milk.
  8. Bake 20 minutes, then broil 5 minutes.
  9. Cut into squares and serve.

The Feast After Midnight

Very early on Christmas morning, just after midnight, there is Noche Buena, the tradition of the Good Night or the Night of Goodness.

This night is celebrated with the family and friends, almost like an open house for kids to play and for all to open presents.

Kare-Kare (Tripe with Peanut Butter)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beef tripe
  • 3 medium eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 bunch green beans, cut into 1-inch sections
  • 1 can banana flower
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Boil beef tripe in salted water for 2 hours until tender.
  2. Drain and cut into 2-inch slices.
  3. In a wok with oil, sauté garlic, and onion, and vegetables for 12 minutes.
  4. Add peanut butter; stir and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Add in the tripe into the vegetable mix and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with hot rice and fish sauce.
Churros are traditionally served with hot chocolate

Churros are traditionally served with hot chocolate

Churros

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 whole eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Add water, butter, and salt in a pan and boil.
  2. Add flour and with a wooden spoon stir until you have a firm ball.
  3. Remove from burner, let cool 15 minutes.
  4. Put dough in a bowl and mix, adding eggs and beating dough for 5 minutes.
  5. Put plenty of oil in a boiling pot, so churros will float.
  6. Heat oil and drop the mix into the oil from a special bag or by the spoonful a few at a time.
  7. Cook until brown, for about 6 minutes.
  8. Take out churros with a slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel covered with sugar; also sprinkle sugar on top and eat.

Puto Bumbong

Salabat

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

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