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Classic Noche Buena Dishes

Article by: Princess Jazlyn B. Pereda and Pia Alyssa R. Bonagua

Graphics by: Cassius Klai C. Francisco

In the Philippines, Christmas is traditionally welcomed with a variety of dishes gracing the dinner table. From a wide range of meats, vegetables, fruits, and sweets to complete the typical Noche Buena feast, these surely put a smile on one’s face the night before the much-awaited holiday. In celebration of the upcoming festivities, The New Builder compiled some of the classics seen on the dining table during Noche Buena or Christmas Eve.

Queso de Bola

Queso de bola is a medium-hard cheese prepared from cow milk that has been partially skimmed. It is covered in red wax and has a flavor that is sweet and nutty. In the earlier days, the red coloring ingredients were produced from a particular kind of wood. These days, the coloring additives have been replaced by a layer of red paraffin. The red wax has a spherical shape that ensures it won't break easily and helps extend its shelf life. As it ages, the flavor also becomes stronger.

The word queso de bola directly means to "ball of cheese" It is the name given to a cheese in Filipino that originated in the Netherlands and is originally known as Edam Cheese. This food was introduced to the Philippines during the war with Spain when the Filipinos were secretly trading with the Dutch. Since then, Queso de Bola has become a staple dish alongside pancit, hamon, fruit salad, and other traditional foods on the Christmas tables of most Filipinos.


On Christmas and New Year's Eve, the centerpiece of the dinner table is typically the hamon, which is marinated and fried in a sweet pineapple sauce. This dish yields a magnificent sweet-style ham that is both tasty and festive for holiday celebrations. It has a thick, fruity glaze that enhances the meat's savory features and keeps it moist and appetizing.

The word ham derives from the Old English language "hamm," which meant back of the knee. It is known as "hamon" in the Philippines, derived from the Spanish term "jamón". The ancient Germanic peoples are thought to have been the first to offer ham. They presented hog flesh to the Norse deity Freyr, who rules over harvests, but hamon became a Christmas tradition in the 16th century, when friars ordered Christians to fast on the evening of Jesus Christ's birth, also known as Noche Buena, and then give a large banquet when the clock hits 12.

Fruit Salad

Fruit salad is the typical name for a fruit dish. Various fruit varieties are combined to make this delicacy, which is occasionally served with syrup. The mixture must be chilled for the entire night before serving to produce the best results. Fruit salad can be prepared in several ways, including as an appetizer or a side salad. When served as an appetizer, a fruit salad may also be referred to as a fruit cocktail. In the Philippines, fruit salad is usually served as a dessert rather than an appetizer or side dish.

Fruit salad's creamy and sweet flavor constantly satisfies the cravings of the sweet-toothed during Christmas. It is good not only for its taste but also for its festive appeal. Having a gorgeous combination of colors from the fruits and other additions.

Every home certainly has its own special recipe for the dish, but one ingredient is a necessity, and that is the canned fruit that creates this creamy, sweet treat. However, because this canned product was not affordable for the average Filipino, it was saved for special occasions like Christmas, and serving fruit salad at Christmas eventually became a tradition. In the end, it still ranks as one of the all-time most beloved Filipino desserts, regardless of how it is prepared or what ingredients are added.

Puto Bumbong

Puto Bumbong is a rice cake made from purple rice, which is then steamed in bamboo tubes and served with butter or margarine and shredded coconut, mixed with sugar. This treat is sold throughout the country during the holiday season and is commonly seen outside the churches from the start until the end of the Simbang Gabi or the traditional Christmas early masses. Although its origin is unknown, it is believed to be brought to the Philippines during the early Spanish era.

Leche Flan

Leche Flan is a dessert made with egg yolks, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. It was influenced by the Spaniards, which is why the dessert’s name is in Spanish; leche for milk and flan for creme caramel. Although Europeans use cream for it to become creamy, here in the Philippines, condensed milk and evaporated milk are used.

For Filipinos, food is one staple in making sure that family and friends feel loved, appreciated, and remembered. Having extraordinary dishes in gatherings is expected in Filipino culture but celebrating it with family and loved ones makes it more special and is what makes Noche Buena unforgettable. After all, that is what Christmas is truly about.

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