Christmas Eve has always been special in the homes of every Filipino family. We have different reasons for that, but for me, it is just because of one thing: food. Yearly, I look forward to the Christmas holidays for the delectable dishes that will be served on the round table. It has been a yearly tradition for our family to feast on the best dishes we know to ensure a perfect Christmas Eve dinner. While having cooking duties could be fun, it could also be relaxing to give ourselves some slack and simply grab the best choices from Metro Manila for the usual dishes we serve during Noche Buena.
A staple in almost every Noche Buena, the holiday ham has a variety of kinds. If your taste buds better appreciate salty dishes, then Excelente Ham would be perfect for your liking. It has the smoky and salty flavor often found in so-called Chinese hams. It is best paired with garlic rice or bread to balance the flavor. I have to warn you though, this might not be the most tender ham around. My personal favorite would be the Santi’s Christmas Honey Ham. This is for the ones with a sweet tooth, as it is glazed with honey throughout, with the meat achieving the perfect balance of sweet and salty. Compared to the Excelente’s, Santi’s is also moist and tender, which is my personal preference. It is best paired with queso de bola for an added kick.
Earlier, I gave two top picks for the holiday ham, as some prefer it sweet, some would rather have it salty. When it comes to lechon however, the answer will always be Elar’s. Elar’s is the way, the truth, and the life of lechon. I have tried numerous lechons that people have been flaunting over in social media, but nothing has come close to Elar’s. With Elar’s lechon, even the so-called white meat which usually lacks flavor has that herby and salty taste that is good on its own, while better when smothered with their sweet lechon sauce. Elar’s lechon skin is always cooked perfectly to crisp. Nonetheless, my personal favorite in this lechon would always be the dark meat that absorbs all the herbs and spices that is stuffed in this very flavorful and delectable lechon.
If you would like a healthier alternative or simply an additional protein to the table, then roast chicken would be a perfect choice. S&R’s Rotisserie Chicken would be my top pick. Mastered through time, this dish is the epitome of perfectly cooked roast chicken. Each surprisingly juicy slice of this chicken, even from the breast part, is packed with flavors of herbs and spices. It also goes with its natural chicken drippings on its plastic pack that can be paired with rice and some salt for an added experience. On top of these praises, it only costs roughly Php300 for a whole chicken.
Best paired with meaty spaghetti, fried chicken would always be a staple dish in many celebrations. This would be the less healthy, yet more savory alternative to roast chicken. My personal top pick would be Pancake House fried chicken. It is perfectly cooked, bringing out the perfect juiciness of the chicken meat which has the citrus flavor of its marinade. Coated with a very crispy breaded skin and served with a creamy gravy, this would have to be one of the Metro’s best fried chicken. The best part of it – it’s not as oily as the others. Plus, it is easily accessible.
The typical Filipino-style sweet Spaghetti is already too common across the Metro. You have McDonald’s, Jollibee, or even Amber for that. Perhaps, Buddy’s Spaghetti would be an apt recommendation for a more unique option. It strikes a balance between sweet and meaty flavors that I think is achieved by adding liver spread in the sauce. It has a little kick of spiciness, which is negligible even if you are not a fan of spicy food. The only downside with this option is the lack of ground meat that you would wish your spaghetti to come with. Also, you need to add more cheese!
The choice is yours again. Do you prefer a saucy meat with really tender bits of meat? Or would you rather have something that is less saucy but more chunky? If you are a fan of the former, then Aristocrat’s pork barbecue would be for you. It has a tender and juicy pork meat drowning with their special sweet and nutty barbecue sauce. For the latter option, the less saucy, but chunky recommendation would be Amber’s pork barbecue. It is a little dry on the outside, but when you take a bite, it is tender and flavorful with the less hint of sweetness, a rather smoky flavor is evident instead. The best part of it is it is lean.
Let us not forget bibingka, the dish that is very close to our culture and traditions as Filipinos for our dessert. While there are tons of places offering this, my top contender would still have to be Provenciano’s. With generous servings of salted egg and butter, its bibingka will definitely stand out. It was specially baked to achieve a very thick consistency on the middle that adds twist to the usual dry bibingka experience. It comes with shaved coconut or coco sugar, so it is up to you which condiment would be more apt to your liking. But if you would ask me, those are unnecessary.
With these dishes on the round table, your Noche Buena would definitely be a perfect Filipino meal to celebrate the Yuletide season
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