Roasted Chestnuts/ Castanas
If there is any smell that can instantaneously bring me back to my happy childhood Christmas memories, it would be the smell of roasting chestnuts. Images of vendors cooking and selling chestnuts along the sidewalks of Quiapo remain vivid in my mind. For the past several Christmases, I have contented myself in buying from supermarkets but the feeling is not quite the same.
Chinese Cooked Ham
This perennial pining for truly delicious ham, specifically for the Excelente Chinese cooked ham, is still an offshoot of my memories of Quiapo. My late father always made sure that we have it on our Noche Buena table even if we had more than enough food from our own restaurant kitchen. I like it best in thin slices, lightly fried and sprinkled with sugar and partnered with hot pandesal.
Rellenong Bangus/Stuffed Milk Fish
The best rellenong bangus I ever tasted in my life came out of the kitchen of our restaurant, Ambos Mundos. It was not offered regularly to customers and was sold by special order. It is the one viand on the Noche Buena table that I will never say no to.
Chicken Pork Adobo with Liver
I am not really fond of organ meats like liver but I make an exception with this viand. Mashed chicken livers are used to thicken sauce and having them mashed made it a lot easier for me try it and actually like it. The usual adobo we sold in our restaurant had no liver and I usually get to have it during special occasions in our home and family.
Making the buko salad for Christmas has always been my turf at home. On Christmas Eve morning, the buko will be delivered while the rest of the ingredients have been bought the day before. Once complete, I focus all my energy into it because I had the task of producing a great quantity of it in anticipation of the arrival of our relatives from all over. What I especially like about it are the green and red sago that makes it look so festive.
So there you go, my personal list of holiday food that I wish I can enjoy especially during Christmas time. I used to exert every effort to have all of them on our own Noche Buena table at home but time and physical constraints usually prevent me. I don't have much luxury of time and energy to prepare them as I remember them. Once I am able to, I hope to add images of my own creation in this post. A trip to Quiapo is just what I need for the first two while some work in the kitchen will be needed for the rest.
Good food and happy memories, they so fit well together.