Noche buena is a tradition that families all around the world enjoy and look forward to during the Yuletide season. It is a special time we all prepare and save for as we dine together to enjoy a specially prepared feast laid out on the table while we wait for midnight to welcome and celebrate Christmas, a truly very special day because it is the birth of a very special family member — Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Back then, the staples in a typical Filipino noche buena feast were quezo de bola, Christmas ham, pasta, fruit salad and hot chocolate. But this has now changed to adapt the each member’s favorite dishes. Read on as some personalities share their noche buena favorites to us.
Aleth R. Ocampo
When I think of noche buena, it’s always a feast, a buffet table filled with yummy treats that is shared with family and friends. Growing up we would trek to Pampanga and have lechon and, of course, hot piping nilaga cooked over firewood for six to eight hours! On my mom’s side of the family, I always remember the leche flan and macapuno that my lola used to serve us. Nowadays whenever Christmas comes around, I’ll impatiently wait for my sister’s fruit salad, which she makes once a year and is super special. She mixes whatever fruits we receive as gifts and adds some grated cheese. This is served frozen and we cut huge chunks of it. In exchange, she bugs me for my yema-filled egg biscuits. We love sabotaging each other’s diet.
Some families might consider ham the star of the noche buena table, but for me, it’s my chicken galantina. Preparing it is time consuming and a bit of hard work, but I guess that makes it extra special. There’s something gratifying about putting your heart and effort into something and knowing that it made your loved ones happy. My jumbo pork BBQ is also something that’s always on our noche buena table. It’s a hit in my family because it’s really big! That’s why I decided to offer a ready-to-cook version which you can get from my restaurants. On a more personal note though, I think Christmas this year will be my most favorite because this is our baby girl’s first Christmas.
It’s our Kapangpangan nilagang Pasku, basically like any typical boiled chicken/pork and veggies, ours has saging saba and ham hocks to flavor the stock. Nothing like a bowl of hot soup on a cool night.
My favorite noche buena feast would probably be our household cook’s caramelized leftover fiesta hams from gifts the previous days and make this amazing fluffy scrambled eggs and steaming white rice. Very simple yet it hits the spot especially when the rest of the evening will be spent drinking and celebrating. I can already smell the sugar caramelizing over the hams! Then top it off with a perfect cup of coffee... The end!
My fave noche buena dishes are majestic ham with pineapple glaze in pan de sal, our yaya Chu’s hot chocolate with a little peanut butter and duman young rice from Guagua, Pampanga, grilled quezo de bola and baked macaroni.
Frances Lorraine Ang, food blogger
My perfect noche buena would definitely be having slices of sweet caramelized Christmas ham on warm pan de sal, my mom’s signature corned beef macaroni, freshly cooked bibingka with lots of quezo de bola on top, a bottle of wine and having my family around the table with me.
Our Christmas spread is home-cooked paella, lengua, callos, roast ribeye, and chicken galantina as the main stars. Co-starring are French bean, carrot, beets and grape salad, asparagus dauphinoise and to end our meal, I make English trifle and turtle pie.
Alicia Colby Sy, lifestyle editor, Town & Country Philippines
Noche buena has never been an elaborate affair for my family, however, it is the only time of year when I feel compelled to serve a traditional offering. Year in, year out, the selection is simple yet extremely comforting. It’s nostalgic eating at its best. My table is always laden with both a roast ham and roast pork, Russian potato salad made with chunks of beets and apples, and a platter of sliced quezo de bola served with buttery ensaymada, Italian panettone, and pan de sal. The best thing about this meal is that I can eat it again on Christmas morning and be just as happy and satisfied as the night before.
Atty. Noel Ermitano, food blogger
A perfect noche buena for me would be in the presence of my dad and all my siblings (one sister, her husband, and daughter are based in the US, and my mom passed away years ago). That would make things perfect. The last time all us siblings were together for Christmas was in 2006. Wine, food, etc., would be secondary. That said, I’d start with some vintage champagne with some caviar on blini and a bit of crème fraîche; and smoked salmon with dill. Next a salad with seared scallops with a good Meursault or Chablis; then our family’s recipe of chili-garlic prawns. Meat course would be a very rare roast beef; either that or our usual roasted racks of lamb. The reds would be aged Bordeaux, ideally Haut Brion or an old Pomerol. Dessert would have to be my favorite coffee crunch cake by Yulo, which I would serve without sweet wine as these days a cake is plenty sweet enough for me. Double espressos and good Armagnac for afters (my dad prefers that to cognac).