There’s a reason why gym owners are practically rolling in cash once January rolls around. With so many homes, schools, and offices celebrating Christmas with parties of their own, you can bet that most people will gain a pound or ten by the end of December.
Still, what’s a celebration without heaps of good food? And is there any other time of year where you have license to stuff yourself silly in the company of the ones you love every other day? (Besides, if it weren’t for the season’s indulgences, half of all New Year’s resolutions would be out of a job and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?)
Now, if your calendar’s got a fair number of parties this month and you’re agonizing over what to bring to the next potluck, we’ve got you covered. The following list features some of the best-loved Filipino dishes that have not only graced Noche Buena tables for years, but are also guaranteed to be a hit with non-Pinoy attendees at any feast.
Better still, each entry features an accompanying recipe. Be sure to visit the nearest Filipino store in case your local grocery doesn’t have a few of the ingredients for some of the dishes on this list:
1. Pancit Bihon (Philippine Noodle Stir-Fry).
This savory noodle dish is a standby for many Filipino celebrations since it’s a meal in itself. Where I come from, a platter bearing bihon strands, shrimp and/or chicken pieces, and an assortment of vegetables is a harbinger of special occasions like birthdays, baptisms, and yes, Christmas.
However, because pancit bihon is so easy to make, it also isn’t unusual for many people in the Philippines to have this as an afternoon snack.
How easy? Check it out for yourself right here.
2. Lumpiang Shanghai (Fried Spring Roll).
While this dish’s name might have “Shanghai” in it, these spring rolls are most certainly 100% Filipino. Each of these crispy cylinders is stuffed with ground pork, chopped carrots, minced onions, and a few spices, and are much improved by a dunking in banana ketchup or sweet chili sauce.
Lumpiang Shanghai pieces make for great finger food and they are often the first to disappear from the table, so you can make a few batches in advance and keep them in a 200F oven before serving to keep them nice and hot.
Learn how to make these babies here.
3. Festive Banana Fritters.
Remember those spring roll wrappers from the previous recipe? If you’ve got any leftovers, you can use them to make dessert too!
Think of sliced bananas dressed with cinnamon and sugar, wrapped and baked in lumpia wrappers, and then drizzled with caramel and chocolate syrup. Yum. Are you drooling yet?
Check out this recipe now.
4. Chicken Barbecue Skewers.
These ain’t your typical chicken on the barbie. Sweet, salty, and tangy (and on a stick! You don’t even need utensils to eat these!), Pinoy-style chicken barbecue skewers will appeal to young and old alike at any gathering.
Go on, print out a copy of this recipe and get the grill or broiler started.
5. Philippine Paella.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the traditional Paella Valenciana (I’ve got nothing but love for it, actually), but this, ah, bastardized version of it is sure to create a sort of craving that only this dish can satisfy.
The addition of coconut milk makes this dish a delicious and innovative testament to the extent of Spanish influence on Filipino cuisine, as you’ll see here.
6. Lola’s Fruit Salad.
Okay, so isn’t strictly grandma’s recipe. We just like to call it that because it’s been served at parties as far back as we can remember, and banquets just don’t seem to be complete without a bowl of this strangely addictive concoction at the end of the buffet table.
The recipe calls for Nestle table cream, but heavy whipping cream or all-purpose cream will do just as well in this recipe. You can, of course, substitute a low-fat or non-fat dairy, but that’s on your conscience, mate.
7. Calamansi Whiskey Sour.
Looking for something to wash all of that food down with? Try this cocktail.
Featuring whiskey and calamansi (duh), it’s both refreshing and invigorating. A touch of honey takes it from being sour and bitter (like that great aunt or uncle of yours whom you like to avoid at reunions) to a mellow and delightfully-spiked Filipino-style lemonade.
So, there we have it. Having all these recipes in your arsenal ought to have you all prepped and ready for any party you’ll be hosting or attending, be it during Christmas or any other time of the year.