Category Archives: Food

#364 Media Noche

A festive Filipino table for the New Year

In the Philippines the countdown to New Year varies depending on family or even region. At the strike of midnight, the noise becomes deafening with firecrackers shooting and blooming in the sky while everyone gape in awe.

The banging and booming rise to a climax as people make noise by clanging old pots and pans, blowing a jeepney, car or tricycle’s horns, using assorted whistles, firecrackers to any kind of noise both awful or simply maddening. For children who wishes to grow taller in the new year, adults cajole them to jump 12 times around midnight in hopes of getting their wish fulfilled. Similar to other Asian countries, the loud noises and sounds of merrymaking are not only meant to celebrate the New Year but are supposed to drive away bad spirits.

After midnight the family also gather for a thanksgiving feast called Media Noche (midnight meal). Filipinos believe having a food-laden dinner table augurs well for the coming year and brings good luck. At least 12 round fruits are placed in the fruit basket as a sign of prosperity for the next 12 months. All-time favourite dishes such as noodles (for long life), pork, beef, chicken, rice cakes and assorted sweets are served. For Catholics there is also a midnight mass to welcome the New Year.

Long live Philippine festive traditions!

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#363 New Year’s Fruit Basket

Photo from Tsibog.com

Part of the fun in getting ready for New Year’s Eve is to come up with 12 round fruits, each to signify a month of the year. Ideally, there should be 12 different fruits — grapes, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, pomelo, watermelon, chico…

It’s a tough challenge, so at times, half the fruits in a Filipino’s New Years Fruit Basket or dinner table are likely to be not really round such as mangoes, pears and apples. But the fruit that Filipinos most associate with the celebration of the New Year and which will be always found in a fruit basket are ubas (grapes), preferably the big imported varieties to add a special touch to New Year’s celebrations. For Filipinos having round fruits on the dinner table are supposedly harbingers of good luck for the rest of the new year…

Long live Philippine festive traditions!

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#358 Noche Buena

The Filipino dinner table or Noche Buena on Christmas Eve is a big family feast with specially cooked dishes

 

On December 24, Christmas Eve, Filipino families, particularly those of the Catholic and Christian faith, gather for the Noche Buena or Christmas Dinner – a big family feast to celebrate the Christmas season.

The Noche Buena is a much-awaited event as the occasion does not only gather the whole family but also promises the best prepared and special meals cooked by the household with luxury items such as imported cheese or Queso de Bola, apples and grapes and drinks. Native Philippine dishes and delicacies are served and food is in abundance since family, friends and neighbors are expected to drop by for a visit, and one has to show hospitality and good cheer to everyone.

Obviously adopted from the Spanish custom of Christmas celebrations, regalo (gifts) are exchanged and children are particularly indulged by their parents, uncles and aunts with toys, clothing and other presents. Catholics are also expected to attend the Christmas mass on Christmas Eve after which the dinner will be served for everyone to enjoy.

More than weddings or birthdays, it is the Filipino’s Noche Buena table that is almost always laden with so much food at any time of the year.

Mabuhay ang Pinoy Christmas!

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#351 Embutido

A slice of embutido

Embutido (Philippine Pork Roll)  is a Filipino celebration staple or meat dish derived from a Spanish meat roll recipe. In the Philippines one usually finds embutido served on birthdays, Christmas, holidays and other celebratory or festive days. One can describe embutido as a meat log or a meat roll, usually made from ground pork, stuffed with eggs and one or a variety of other meat-products, and studded with raisins and peppers.

The roll is a rich mixture of meat, finely diced vegetables which is steamed or left in the oven to warm. Embutido can be served as cold cuts. It is also best to dip a slice of embutido with your favorite food sauce.

Bon appétit!

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#347 Salabat

Salabat is hot ginger tea made by boiling crushed ginger in water. Brown sugar or honey is used to sweeten the beverage. Kamote (sweet potato), sago, or carabao’s milk are added by some to salabat.

Salabat is found to have healing properties and is used to ease cold symptoms and stomach aches. It soothes sore throats and is said to sweeten the singing voice.

Salabat tea is now available in powdered form for convenience in preparation. It is a favorite drink during the cold season, and is often given drunk during cold nights. The drink is also popular during the Christmas season and is often drunk or served with bibingka (rice cake) and puto bumbong (steamed rice cakeoutside churches after Simbang Gabi (Misa de Gallo).

Long live Philippine traditions!

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#346 Bistek

Bistek (a corrupt or Filipinised word for beef steak) is the Filipino version of beef steak and yet totally different in terms of taste and preparation. Unlike the Western version of beef steak with its medium rare preparation or cooking, Filipinos are not fond of half-cooked meat and prefer it well-done. 

Bistek is  a well-loved and popular meat dish and uses chunks or thick slices of tender beef, which are slowly cooked or fried in finely sliced onions, a handful of garlic, a spoonful of soya sauce and some drops of kalamansi (Philippine lemon) to taste. The onions are slowly fried or caramelised until tender and mixed or slowly combined with the beef. Sliced white onion rings are used as garnishing. The sauce is slowly stirred and is often thickened. Bistek is a fine accompaniment for rice steamed or boiled with fragrant pandan stalks.

Bon appétit! 

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#343 Binagol

Photo by Backpacking Philippines

 

Binagol (BEE-Nah-GOL) is a Waray dessert made from a mixture of talyan (a type of root crop similar to gabi), coconut milk and sugar placed or poured into coconut shells or “bagol” (in Waray) and then steamed until cooked.

Binagol, although mostly made in Dagami town, can be found and are sold in Tacloban City and other parts of eastern Leyte region. With a ‘coco-nutty’ sweet taste, binagol is a popular food souvenir for visitors. The coconut shell not only makes an attractive, ecologically-sound packaging but also preserves the freshness of binagol. One can also eat directly from the coconut shell, making this dessert a very handy, filling and tasty snack-on-the-go.

Mabuhay ang binagol!

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#339 Pirurutong Rice

Uncooked pirurutong rice (above) and the cooked pirurutong suman or rice cake

 

Pirurutong rice is a purple-brown aromatic rice which is often used in many rice cakes due to its soft and glutinous consistency when cooked.

Pirurutong can also be ground into a flour, which is then used in making the Christmas rice cakes called “puto bungbong” (although many puto bungbong makers nowadays use regular rice flour with artificial purple coloring).

Suman na pirurutong (pirurutong rice cake) is cooked ‘biko’ style which is basically steaming the pirurutong rice mixed with undiluted coconut cream and later topped with coco jam.

Depending on the region or the cook, there are several versions of the pirurutong suman with some cooks using crushed ginger to flavor the steamed rice or squeezing a few drops of kalamansi (Philippine lemon) to add a zesty taste to the rice cake.

Bon appétit!

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#330 Chicken Binakol

Photo: Our Awesome Planet blog

There are several types or versions of a chicken binakol recipe in the Philippines depending on place or region. 

In Batangas province, Luzon, the famous Batangas native chicken is used for their Chicken binakol and is cooked in a bamboo tube to seal in the juices. In the Visayas region their version of Chicken Binakol is to simmer the chicken with tanglad or pandan leaves in the coconut shell itself. A popular native dish, chicken binakol is popular in the provinces where coconuts are abundant. The combination of coconut juice and ginger gives this stew a flavourful and unique taste.

Chicken Binakol ingredients are one dressed chicken, chopped onions, minced garlic, young coconut water or juice, a node of bamboo tube and salt to taste. The shell of a young coconut is also used to serve this tasty dish.

Bon appétit!

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#328 Pinasugbo

Pinasugbo is a popular banana dessert in the Visayas region, central Philippines. Saba or plantain bananas are thinly sliced, deep fried to a crisp, and coated in thick cane sugar and lightly coated or sprinkled with sesame seeds.

One often finds pinagsugbo sold in bus stations, small stores and in public markets. The banana slices stick together,  and are mostly wrapped in paper or plastic to make eating easier. Decades ago before the popularity of modern plastic packaging, pinasugbo are wrapped in banana leaves. Unfortunately, pinasugbo is among the traditional Pinoy desserts that are being sidelined by more modern pastries and imported candies.

But to those who spent their childhood eating pinagsubo as pasalubong (homecoming gift), nothing can replace the nostalgia or remembrances brought by this very original and tasty Pinoy banana treat.

Mabuhay ang pinasugbo!

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