Growing up, I didn’t have any concept of grand noche buena or media noche. Sure, it’s something that we observe, but our version wasn’t as fancy: no ham, no lechon, no steak, no collection of round fruits. We also never had to eat out or have food delivered. I have no recollection of any moment wherein we went out to have a meal as family. Due to budget constraints, all our meals were prepared by my mom at home.
The same applies to special occasions. Everything on our table was prepared at home. Hence, when I think of noche buena or media noche, the first memories that pop up in my head are those of lutong bahay dishes, done Batangas-style. Not that I’m complaining! I will pick lutong bahay over restaurant food any day.
I’ve been thinking about the usual dishes that I enjoyed at noche buena and media noche when I was a kid, so I asked many of the locals in our area for their recipes. Perhaps because of time and budget issues, one thing I noticed quickly is that many of these are relatively easy to do with lots of short cuts and ingredients that are affordable and easy to find. Most do away with herbs and spices, with the exception of garlic, onion, pepper and ginger, which are all Pinoy staples. For sauces, instead of making it from scratch, they tap the help of the ever reliable ketchup or tomato sauce.
Anyway, here are five of the my favorite Pinoy noche buena and media noche dishes and how to prepare them easily. These are all good for at least 5 people. Again, please note that because I asked Batangas home cooks, so these are all Batangas lutong bahay style. Nothing fancy, but full of soul.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Turbong Manok Recipe
Turbong Manok is my favorite special-occasion dish growing up. I’m not sure why they call it that, though. (Perhaps because the original recipe uses a turbo broiler? I have no idea. Haha.) I always refer to it as “chicken with 7-up” because most cooks in our area add clear soda — Sprite or 7-up — to make the sweet-and-salty sauce, which is absorbed by the slowly cooked chicken.
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 pcs of onion (minced)
- 1 whole garlic (small)
- 60ml of soy sauce
- 1 16oz clear soda
- ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
- salt for seasoning
How to Cook:
- Mix onion, garlic, and soy sauce in a pot.
- Add clear soda and black pepper to the mixture.
- Put the whole chicken in the pot, cover with the lid, and let it cook in medium heat for 45 minutes.
My mom normally adds chicken liver as it simmers. Some of our neighbors also add a pack of banana ketchup to the initial mixture, but my mom doesn’t like it with ketchup.
We also don’t eat it right away. We usually let it cool down and put it in the refrigerator for hours, sometimes overnight, before serving. It just tastes better when the chicken has absorbed the sauce.
Batangas Bulalo Recipe
Bulalo (bone marrow soup) is a great holiday food because a hot soup is best in colder months like December and January. It’s something that I only got to try when there’s a special occasion because beef is expensive.
- 3 lbs of beef shanks
- 1 whole garlic (crushed)
- 3 pcs of onion (minced)
- 2 small sachets of black peppercorns
- half cabbage (broken apart per leaf)
- 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 5 calamansi
- 3 pcs red chili
- 1 liter of water
How to cook:
- Pour water into a big pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the beef shanks, garlic, onion, peppercorns and fish sauce. Cover.
- Simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours or until tender. Scoop out scum.
- Once beef is tender, cabbage and simmer for another five minutes.
- After five minutes, serve it with calamansi and chili.
Most in our area add potatoes to their bulalo. If you choose to do it, add the potatoes towards the end, along with the cabbage. Some add corn, too.
Kalderetang Baboy Recipe
Often, caldereta is a beef dish, but Batangas is known for kalderetang kambing (goat). However, because none in the family eats goat meat and because beef is expensive, we use pork instead. My brother loves kaldereta and he loves preparing it too. Every time I came home from my travels or from Manila, he would cook this dish.
- 2 kg of pork (preferably spare ribs)
- 1 whole small garlic (crushed)
- 2 pcs of onion (minced)
- 1 pack of tomato sauce
- 2 bottles of ketchup
- 60ml of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoon of margarine
- cooking oil
- 2 pcs carrots (sliced)
- 1 pc bell pepper
- 1 liver spread (85g)
- 5 red chili (chopped)
- green peas
- 1 small can of chickpeas (garbanzos)
- ½ teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of water
How to cook:
- Sauté garlic and onion over low heat using Star margarine and cooking oil until garlic is golden brown.
- Add tomato sauce, ketchup, pickles, soy sauce, pepper, and salt. Mix well for thirty seconds then cover lid for three minutes.
- Put pork and pour one cup of water. Mix gently then cover for thirty minutes as it simmers.
- Once meat is tender, add carrots, potatoes, green peas and chickpeas. Mix gently. Cover for another 15 minutes.
- Add liver spread and bell pepper. Mix well then cover for another five minutes.
Pochero is one of my favorite dishes. Once when I was new to Manila, I ordered it at a restaurant, but was shocked to be served a bowl of soup with meat and vegetables. In Batangas, yes there are vegetables and meat, but it is not a soup dish. Pochero in Batangas has tomato-based sauce, not soup. Here’s how to make it.
- 1 kg of pork (kambayado)
- 1 carrot (slice in to cubes)
- ¼ beans (slice)
- 1 bottle of banana ketchup
- 1 potato (sliced into cubes)
- 1 tomato sauce
- 5 pcs of laurel leaves
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (patis)
- 1 pc of garlic (crushed)
- 1 pc of onion (minced)
- 4 pcs of hotdog (sliced)
- 3 tablespoons of margarine
- ½ cabbage
How to Cook
- Fry the pork in medium low heat. Set aside.
- Sauté garlic, onion, potato and carrots. Mix well. Cover for 5 minutes.
- Add tomato sauce, ketchup, ground pepper, and fish sauce. Mix well. Cover for another 10 minutes.
- Add the cabbage then mix well. Cover for five minutes.
- Lower heat then add the fried pork. Mix in gently for two minutes.
Lumpiang Shanghai Recipe
When it comes to savory finger foods, nothing beats crunchy lumpiang shanghai in my book. The blend of meaty and herby taste gives it a unique taste that is great for the holidays. It’s easy to eat and can be munched on while catching up with friends and family. Pwede ring pulutan!
- ¼ ground pork
- 2 pcs onion, minced
- 1 pc of carrots, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon of magic sarap
- 1 egg
- kinchay leaves (Asian celery)
- lumpiang shanghai wrappers
How to cook:
- Mix all the ingredients above (except the wrapper) in a bowl. Set aside.
- Put a teaspoon of the mixture on a lumpia wrapper and make a roll.
- Do it until you finish all the meat mixture.
- In a pan or wok, fry or deep fry the rolls in cooking oil over low heat. If you’re not deep-frying, make sure to flip the rolls.
- Serve when ready.
Lucky Fruits for New Year
This isn’t really lutong bahay but still relevant.
Many Filipinos believe that having round fruits on New Year’s Eve will bring good fortune in the coming year. Hence, fruits become so accessible before the year ends: Supermarkets fill their crates with local and imported fruits, and fruit stands mushroom along the road. No wonder why even those who don’t believe or practice Feng Shui still end up having lots of round fruits on their medianoche table. They’re just readily available everywhere.
If you believe in Feng shui, experts say that some fruits are luckier than others. According to a report by ABS-CBN, the following are considered lucky fruits: lychees, pomelos, pineapples, oranges, apples, grapes, and watermelons.
If you don’t believe in feng shui, that’s okay. But still consider having fruits! They’re healthy and delicious anyway. Haha.
That’s all for now. I’ll be adding more to this very soon!