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The Mother of All Hams Each Christmas


Ham is among the best food selections on the dinner table during Christmas (especially on Christmas Eve). Here in Manila, ham is what makes for a truly special Noche Buena or Christmas Eve treat. It makes the dinner table grand. In fact, it serves as a kind of status symbol–the ham type served reflects how financially well-off the family is.



While in the Philippines this Christmas, you must try the Chinese ham from Quiapo or Adelina’s Ham in Mandaluyong. These masters in the ham industry have been known for their quality hams for decades. Adelina’s have been known for their fabulous Christmas ham since 1955. Michelle Dee’s Holiday Ham is another option for gourmet ham. Photo above shows Garcia’s Chinese-style bone-in ham which also sells high-quality gourmet ham.


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And speaking of being financially well-off, traditional Chinese hams are on top of the list. Anyone desiring to brag a grand Christmas feast to guests should have a whole hind leg of it displayed on the table. This is not the usual pear-shaped or round hams bought in boxes that sometimes come in small, regular and large sizes. Traditional Chinese hams always come in whole pork hind legs with the bones still intact inside. Such is a gourmet treat that makes any guest feel special.


Bone-In Ham

This is a special type of ham as the leg bone is still intact inside the meat when the ham is cooked. Other hams have their bones taken out before curing and cooking. What makes traditional Chinese hams taste differently and special is the bone inside (bone-in ham), aside from the special spices that go into the concoction it is boiled in. The bone inside adds real beefiness to the ham flavor.


Aside from the bone, the ham crust is another tastiness factor. It is made golden, sweet and extra juicy through the ironing or “plantsa” (pronounced as “plan-cha”) treatment where a flat metal spatula is placed inside red-hot burning charcoals until hot enough like a live flat iron. The spatula is then pressed against the surface of the ham after it is sprinkled with some brown sugar, creating a luring sizzling sound in the process. This also creates the luscious golden brown crust steeped in beefy sweetness.


How It is Basically Cooked

CURING: Cooking traditional Chinese ham involves a long ritual of curing and drying in special spicy mixtures or brews before it goes through a final stage of cooking and curing. Generally, the preparation begins with the following ingredients:


  • A saturated salt solution

  • Salitre (potassium nitrate, a compound added to meat as preservative)

  • Oil of cloves

  • Oil of anise

  • Maplein

  • Phos PT

  • Refined salt

  • Sugar


Mix all the liquid ingredients thoroughly and then add in refined salt and sugar. Using a syringe, inject the resultant solution into the meat, especially the part nearest to the joints and bones. By the way, the amount of each ingredient depends on how big the hind leg is.


Then, gently massage the injected leg muscles to distribute the pickle solution. Then make another mixture of all the dry ingredients (sugar, refined salt and salitre) and rub on the exterior of the pork leg. Keep the leg in the ref for some 15 days and then take out to be rubbed with the dry mixture again. Store again for 15 days, then soak in warm water, removing some of the excess salt. Tie the leg at its joint with an abaca rope (a type of natural fiber rope available in the Philippines). Put in a makeshift dryer for 7 days with a maintained temperature of 110°F until thoroughly dried.


You may age the ham for longer periods. Just keep it in a clean and well-ventilated room.


COOKING THE HAM: To finally cook the ham, wash it with clean water to get rid of excess salt. Boil for 5 minutes in water and then throw the water to further lessen excess salt.


Place the ham in a large container with water and the following ingredients:


  • White sugar

  • Brown sugar

  • Beer or 7-Up softdrink

  • Laurel leaves

  • Oregano leaves


Again, the amount of each ingredient depends on how big the leg is. Optional: You may add pineapple juice.


Cook the ham for some 3 to 4 hours. The skin on the leg automatically separates as the ham is cooked during the boiling process. Then touch the hot spatula treatment on the ham’s surface that has a layer of brown sugar sprinkled on the meat until the desired golden brown crust is achieved. This process adds a special flavour in the meat.


Slice and serve.


Buying Your Own Ham

If you are up to your neck in busy-ness this Christmas and just want to buy ready-cooked Chinese ham,  check out Adelina’s along General Kalentong Street in Mandaluyong. It has been offering one of the best Chinese hams in Manila since 1955.


Michelle Dee’s Holiday Ham is also among the favorites of chefs and ham experts who prefer the old traditional style of making and cooking Chinese ham. For particulars, you may call this number: 892-0688.


Or, if you are on a really tight budget but still want to grace your Christmas dinner table with slices of Chinese ham, visit Excelente Cooked Ham along C. Palanca Street (former Echague) in Quiapo for presentable but affordable slices of traditional Chinese ham and other meat products.


The photo above is Garcia’s Chinese-style ham. It is top quality ham with a heady tang that is sharp, salty and addictive. Bone-in ham is available at P750/kilo and a boneless ham is also available at P790/kilo.


Garcia’s Chinese Ham is at 329 B. Gonzalez corner Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. Tel. No. 920-7794.



1. How To Make Filipino Style Pineappled Glazed Ham by “Skip to Malou: Cooking with a Filipino Accent”

Malou Perez-Nievera shares an old family recipe.


2. Adelina’s Ham – One of the best in the Philippines


☆☆☆ Have a wonderful Christmas! Cheers! ☆☆☆



Author: CS Gaerlan


Photo source:



How to Make Home Made Chinese Ham

Excelente Ham, C. Palanca St. (Echague), Quiapo


Video Reference:

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