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Noche Buena Recipes That Might Make a “Good Night” Even Better

Culinary experts share the dishes they love to prepare for the Christmas Eve dinner.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO

T here are households in the Philippines so fortunate that they can make “Noche Buena” seem like a misnomer.

In English, the Spanish phrase means a “good night” but to some, it is more than that. There are those who see it as a night so significant that they’d be willing to spend a lot to cross vast distances and celebrate it with their loved ones. There are people who view it as a night of utmost generosity; when giving and forgiving comes easy thanks to the customs of the season and the opportunities such customs provide. Forget “good;” Noche Buena, to a country as vastly Catholic as the Philippines, is the best night of the year to some people. And, like a lot of occasions in this country, it normally has good food involved.

Culminating in a feast, Noche Buena can bring out some of the best dishes people can get a hold of. Some brandish kitchen secrets handed down from one generation to the next while others learn new ones just for the sake of the occasion. If you’re among the latter, then this is for you: a collection of recipes provided by local culinary experts.

Yes, we know it’s already a good night for some of you. But if you try these dishes, it might end up being better.

CHEF Greggie Mercado’s Creamy Aligue Pasta

Aging’s Food Delight—a family business in Pasig—is known for warming people’s hearts with their rice cake products. So, it comes as no surprise that Chef Greggie, son of its owners, has the knack for doing the same thing even with a not-so-Filipino dishes. For instance, his Creamy Aligue Pasta: a hearty dish that appears to take inspiration from local pancit recipes. It has a rich umami taste balanced out by the smooth, velvety texture of the cream, a concoction generous with overlapping layers of texture and flavor fit for the season of giving.

Ingredients:

1 bottle of aligue / crab tomalley

1 kilo linguine pasta

1 pc chopped white onion

2 cloves garlic

chopped white pepper

salt chili flakes

1 pack all-purpose cream

annato oil / atsuete oil

kesong puti / keso de bola

basil

prawns

lemon

PROCEDURE:

1. Prepare all of your Ingredients

2. Cook the 1kg linguine pasta

3. When the pasta is aldente, set aside and saute the chopped onion and garlic.

4. Pour 1 bottle aligue, atsuete oil, white pepper salt and chili flakes depending on your taste

5. Pour the all-purpose cream, add some kesong puti or keso de bola on your cooked pasta.

6. Garnish it with some basil, prawns and a wedge of lemon to balance the taste

7. Enjoy it while it’s warm, squeeze some lemon before eating.

CHEF GINEY VILLAR’S CHRISTMAS HAM SOUP

Chef Giney Villar has quite an extensive resume and it has continued to grow over the years. Equally growing is her following which has been cultivated through her love of food and her eagerness to share kitchen secrets. These days, Chef Giney is one of the owners of Taal, Batangas’ Feliza Café y Taverna, a haven for heritage cuisine which is now a by-reservation venue for special events. She is also part of travelingspoon.com, which provides private dining experiences in various countries around the world. For her contribution to this feature, she is sharing the recipe for her Christmas Ham Soup, which has a sweet, creamy and meaty taste. The celery and the cauliflower add a crunchy texture which compliments the tenderness of the Christmas ham. It is a suitable antidote to these cold nights we’ve been having.

INGREDIENTS:

3 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves of garlic minced

1 med white/yellow onion, minced

½ cup of chopped ham 3 cups of water or light chicken stock

 2 cups of cauliflower florets

 1 stalk of celery

small-dice ham bone

 ½ tbsp of allspice salt and pepper to taste

3 tbsp of heavy cream

PROCEDURE:

1. Saute the garlic, onion, ham, ham bone and spices until the ham renders.

2. Add water or stock and let simmer for 1hr at least or till stock takes on ham flavor.

3. Add the cauliflower until it’s cooked.

4. Remove the ham bone.

5. Stir in cream just off the fire.

6. Serve with croutons or buttered crusty bread.

IMELDA SIETEREALES’ CLAM CHOWDER

Hot Mama Chef Catering is a food business highly favored by several circles in Metro Manila. And, at the helm of the operation is Imelda Sietereales, a woman who knows her way around the kitchen. For years, Imelda has made quite a living by regaling people with dishes that are both tasty yet affordable; her business is also gaining much attention partly due to party treys featuring the likes of beef caldereta, chicken cordon bleu and lengua with mushroom. For Christmas time, however, among her go-to recipes is her version of the clam chowder, a simple but filling rendition which makes for a creamier version of the classic comfort food.

Ingredients:

1 kilo clams,

¼  Anchor butter, salted

¼  Kraft cheese

1 piece of onion

3 pcs garlic

1 carrots cut into thin slices

salt

1 cup of flour.

4 tbsp of oil

PROCEDURE:

1. Sauté the garlic and onion in oil.

2. Put the clams then the carrots.

3. Put 3 cups water and salt to taste.

4. Dissolve 4 tbsp of flour in boiled water

5. Pour to thicken while stirring continuously

6. Put the butter and cheese

Chef Evelyn Wise’s Chicken Sarsiado

Tagaytay’s Tia Belle’s is best known for its wide array of Filipino dishes. Ever since 2012, it’s been attracting tourists from Metro Manila as it lives up to its tagline “a Taste of Home.” For those who don’t want to go all the way to Tagaytay however, Chef Evelyn has a gift: the recipe for her Chicken Sarsiado, a dish that stimulates the palette with a complex medley of sweet, sour and spicy flavors. If you’re looking for an unusual recipe this Noche Buena, this might be one you’d like to try at home.

INGREDIENTS:

2  kilo chicken thigh

 ½  cup tomato sauce

½  cup  banana catsup

1 tbsp  soy sauce

1 tbsp Magic Sarap

½ cup vinegar

1 tsp fine black pepper

½ cup garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 tbsp white sugar

2 cup finely chopped red onion

½  kilo sweet potato

6 green chili

½ cup Oil

1 cup of  water

PROCEDURE:

1. Clean the chicken properly, remove the excess fats.

2. Sprinkle with ½  teaspoon Magic Sarap then leave it for 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, chop onions and garlic finely.

4. Heat the oil in a wok, fry the chicken until golden brown. Set aside.

5. Cut the sweet potato into ½ inch square and deep fry. Set aside.

6. In a wok, heat ½ cup oil.

7. Sauté the garlic and onions until soft and brown.

8. Mix the tomato sauce, banana catsup, soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon Magic Sarap.  Let it simmer until it thickens.

9. Add 1 cup of water

10. Mix in the chicken, simmer for 15 minutes then pour all the fried sweet potato and chili.

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