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Why Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Dinner) Is The Main Course On Filipino Tables



Food is at the heart of Christmas in the Philippines, underpinning family ties and friendships during the festive season. From mid-December into January special dishes can be seen at home, in restaurants and street corner eateries (or karinderias). The food-fest reaches a climax on Christmas Eve just after Mass at around midnight on what is popularly called Noche Buena (or sometimes Buena Noche) which is Christmas dinner at home with family.  Here are some popular dishes that are usually served during Yuletide Season in the country:




Pastas and Noodles


Spaghetti and macaroni in various forms, styles and flavours are popular not just because they are versatile but also because they are easy to prepare. They can easily mix with sauces, creams, other whipped creamy toppings, sausages and hotdogs, fruits and vegetables, other meat dishes, fish, or simply soaked in hot steaming stews or thick soup. An example is the popular hot “sopas” either of spaghetti or macaroni in thick soup with generous ingredients,  served hot on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.


Chinese thin noodles are cooked pancit style by sauteing in a rich mix of local ingredients and toppings: pork, shrimp, chorizo, kikiam, vegetables, chicharon, and native mushrooms and herbs, to name a few. Among the popular recipes are Pancit Guisado, Bihon, Sotanghon, or Canton. These noodles are especially popular on New Years Eve, being seen as a life extender.


Spicy Meats


Tasty meats of various cooking styles are ever present in Filipino Christmas dinner tables during the Season. The embutido, or steamed meat roll is among the favourites, as well as mechado (sauteed beef chunks in thick tomato sauce), menudo (pork and liver bits with diced potatoes and raisins in thick sauce), chicken afritada (chicken in spicy sauce), pochero (pork or beef with vegetables and  native saba banana) and nilaga (boiled pork or beef with mixed vegetables). A new comer becoming popular in Christmas parties are ginataan meat dishes (spicy meat dishes enriched with coconut milk and chicken curry). And of course, there is the lechon (native roast pig) and inihaw or sinugba (which means grilled meat or fish).



For most Filipinos, it’s not Christmas if there is no fruit salad with green and red gelatin and coconut.




Christmas salads are often a mixture of vegetables or fruits–or both–simply mixed in thick mayonnaise and sprinkled with various native spices. For busy people, a can of preserved fruits in syrup plus generous amounts of cream usually do the trick. A popular style today is fruit salad mixed with tapioca and given a unique subtle taste by mixing in some lychee syrup and fruit for a more “Christmassy” flavour.



The Graham Cake with Mango, the no-bake, refrigerator cake made with Graham crackers, mixture of cream, condensed milk and mango.


Cakes, Hot Chocolate, and Ice Cream


Fruit cakes and rice cakes are definitely in during Yuletide. And don’t forget about Crema de Fruita and the fast becoming popular Graham Ref Cakes! In fact, neighbors, officemates, and friends often give each other gifts of such cakes as symbols of prosperity and sweeter friendships to come. Popular native cakes given as gifts are sapin-sapin (soft and colorful chewy cake made of pure corn), biko or bibingka (made of sticky brown rice), puto (small rice cake), pichi-pichi (made of cassava and topped with grated cheese), and ube halaya (a very nutritious violet root crop). These are ideally washed down with thick, hot chocolate or cocoa drink.


And finally, all the above are often concluded with a big scoop or two of one’s favorite ice cream. Vanilla is often the Flavour of the Season, giving Pinoys their own version of a White Christmas.



Author: Expatch Editorial Team 


Photo source:

Top photo –

Pasta –

Fruit salad –

Graham Cake with Mango –





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