Last of two parts
THE holiday season continues as we eat through more parties, food presents, and reunions with family and friends.
So what is your dream Noche Buena feast?
On my family’s dining table, the staples are usually a Chinese jamon, queso de bola (we prefer the more biting Dutch Master edam to the usual Marca Pato or Piña brands), and a pasta dish done by Big Sister or Kulit Niece. Then there are the ensaymadas from Mary Grace and the steaming Tsokolate Eh (Antonio Pueo) whisked to a froth with a batidor in an ancient blue ceramic chocolatera that’s been in my family as far back as I can remember. (For New Year, we decided to go a little more decadent and bought the fluffy and light delicious Cunanan ensaymadas.)
The other accompanying dishes usually vary depending on our mood and budget—sometimes there is Pancit Molo and prawns in lemon butter sauce. This year, we tried something new and had Baked Norweign Salmon with Pesto Parmesan from Dulcelin. (For some reason, Big Sister and I got particularly obsessed with a fish dish this Christmas.)
(Apples Chen with husband, Peter)
Our Christmas Day lunch would never be complete without a lengua dish from Mama or Big Sister. It takes me back to memories of my lola who was a superb cook, and whom I always hung out with in the kitchen as she experimented with a new recipe from a cookbook or from the women’s magazines she subscribed to. But her fork-tender ox tongue with tomato sauce, potatoes and carrots had been my favorite since I was little. It is a dish that will always remind me of the comforts of home and family, and I’m glad that Mama has learned to make it.
Of course, if I won the Super Lotto, I’d probably fly in Chef Eric Ripert of the three Michelin-starred Le Bernadin to whip our Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve feast. I know there are far more experienced French chefs out there, but Ripert is way hotter! And he’s a Buddhist, so I’d like to see if the family’s loud squabbling over the dining table would eventually annoy him and send him screaming back to New York. Hahaha!
(Rep. Jun Abaya w/ his wife Ria and their kids)
To continue, more thoughts on the Noche Buena feast from friends:
Rafaela “Apples” V. Chen, general manager, International Hoteliers and Associates (Shanghai) Ltd.—This year will be very different from my other Christmas Noche Buena feasts. For the past 15 years, my husband and I were always in the Philippines, but this time we will spending our Christmas in Shanghai. It will be a cold and chilly Christmas, but I will try to put on the table my favorite dishes that I could prepare here, like puto (China has this in their supermarkets), fruit salad, queso de bola, and I will have stuffed chicken that I can ask our chef to help me grill in the oven.
We will be missing the sumptuous food festivities but our thoughts will always be there for our families and mutual friends out there this season.
(Chef Joie Candelaria and daughter Jasmine Danielle)
Rep. Joseph Emilio “Jun” Aguinaldo Abaya, LP, Cavite—I have an eclectic taste for food. I love mussels and oysters prepared by Mommy Alice in any of the fine-cooking traditions of my hometown Lawit, Mama Vivien’s laing, a bowl of chirashi, some fajitas or gyros, pizza with everything on it, cold shrimp salad. End the meal with a bar of Butterfinger and a hot cup of excellent Cavite coffee, and I’m content!
More important for me, however, is sharing my meal and a good conversation with my favorite people: my wife Ria; my kids Miong, Gogo and Ichay; my family and my in-laws. And if God will grant me a miracle, I would be most delighted to be in the company of my daughter, Veanna, and my great grandfather, Emilio Aguinaldo, both of whom have been granted, ahead of us all, the privilege of celebrating Christmas with the ultimate birthday boy, Jesus, in Heaven.
Chef Josephine Yu Tanganco-Candelaria, executive Chinese sous chef, Mabuhay Palace, Manila Hotel—Well, for me I still go for the traditional comfort food and then add a twist of something different. A Noche Buena feast should be a delectable combination of all the dishes that a family loves.
My family and I still take pleasure in drinking Tsokolate (Chef Konrad Walter’s recipe) to accompany my homemade bibingka topped with adobo flakes, melt-in-your-mouth ensaymada with queso de bola (Marca Pato) and bone-in-ham from Hong Kong served with Mantou bread. We also have creamy leche flan, lechon and lechon manok with my very own version of liver sauce, pancit malabon, barbecue pork, and—for dessert—moist dark chocolate cake, and of course my very own salted duck egg ice cream which my family and kids love!
Anthony Amunategui Abad, CEO, Trade Advisory Group—My dream Noche Buena feast would be a baked lechon de leche stuffed with truffle rice. Try it and you will know why!
Patrick Tan, vice president for commercial affairs, Southeast Asian Airlines—For the past years, the Christmas/New Year staples on our family table have been an assortment of prepared foods like confit de canard (from the can, and then baked), pate de foie gras with truffles which we serve with crackers and lumpfish caviar; smoked salmon with capers, and different cheeses.
Our home-cooked foods include pata tim, cha-misua, duck casserole a’la chinoisse, callos, bacalao, and ox tail ragout. For dessert we have chocolate truffles, as well as fresh grapes and oranges.
The meals are characterized by richness and a variety that includes Chinese, French and Spanish dishes. This is what we have gotten used to and this is our dream Christmas meal. Of course we can never finish what’s on the table, but the meal symbolizes abundance, so it is appropriate.
JJ Yulo, founder, choreographer, GRO, Pinoy Eats World—My lola’s food will always make it to my list of my fantasy Noche Buena, starting with her galantina. It’s basically a mixture of pork and other spices that’s been stuffed and rolled into a chicken—a terrine of sorts that is an absolute pain to make. It’s a labor of love, and it shows not only when you see it, but when you eat it. It’s been a Christmas tradition for me since I was small to get a slice, put some mustard and a bit of mayo on the side, and eat it with her signature bread called frescas (sort of like a brioche), and a bit of Russian salad, colorful with boiled beets. These are my real flavors of Christmas.
Since we are in fantasy mode, my lechon would be a bit different: the best Cantonese suckling pig I’ve ever had would be at this restaurant called The Manor in Hong Kong. I can’t figure out what it is about it, but my educated guess is that 1) it’s a specially sourced pig; and 2) they’ve been doing it so long that they’re masters in the art. The skin is impeccable—not a single bad piece—all loudly crunchy (you can hear your seat mate crunching), and with meat that’s so tender and succulent and flavorful with every bite. Their special seasoning is masterful too—it never gets too salty. It’s a game changer for me, palate-wise. I’ll take my Cebu lechon for Noche Buena anytime, but this—this is something else.
This meal would be consumed with all my loved ones around me, all laughing and making merry with no talk of politics or sad stories, and in attendance would be the Christ child himself, because even Jesus deserves a birthday party, don’t you think? And I really think he’d like my lola’s galantina.
Carla Humphries, actress—If I could not worry about gaining weight for a night, a Willy Wonka-inspired Christmas would be nice. Imagine all the chocolates, candies, etc., and not a single calorie on them.
(cont'd from last week, "The true spirit of Christmas is in giving," BusinessMirror, Dec. 23, 2011. My column, Something Like Life, is published most Fridays in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was published on Dec. 30, 2011.)