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01 Dec 2016 - 4 min read

Traditional Philippine Holiday Food and Their Origins


Lechon isn't just familiar in the Philippines, but other former Spanish colonies as well.

You know it’s a special event when there’s lechon on the table. Lechon is a Spanish term referring to a roasted suckling pig, and it’s no surprise that Spain’s former colonies have also taken to the dish. In the Philippines, lecon has extended beyond pigs, as we also have lechon manok, lechon baka, and lechon kawali.


What we know as Queso de Bola here in the Philippines is actually known as Edam cheese everywhere else.

What would a Noche Buena table be like without this cheese and its distinctive red coat? It’s such a staple on the Noche Buena table that some people think it originated here. In truth, what’s known as Queso de Bola here and other former Spanish colonies is known as Edam cheese everywhere else, as it originated in the town of Edam in the Netherlands.


Ham is one of the many holiday staples here in the Philippines.

Hamon, as we call it here in the Philippines, has quite the murky origin story. Conflicting sources put its origin either in China or what is now modern-day France. Roman senator Cato the Elder wrote about it in his De Agri Culture back in 160 BC. Wherever it may have originated, its final destination is always the same -- some person’s very satisfied tummy.


Lumpiang Shanghai didn't actually originate from Shanghai, despite the name.

Despite having the name of the city featured so prominently, lumpiang shanghai didn’t actually originate from Shanghai. Lumpia came from China’s Fujian province, and became popular in Indonesia and the Philippines. Despite its Chinese origins, North America more closely associates the dish with the Philippines.

MorconFor Filipinos, morcon is a roulade made from thin sheets of beef or pork wrapped around hard-boiled eggs, ham, sausages, carrots, pickled cucumber slices, and other ingredients. However, this is quite the departure from the Spanish morcon, which originated in the areas of Andalusia, Extramadura, and Salamanca. There, a morcon is a lean meat chorizo stuffed into a pig’s large intestine.


Leche flan is the Filipino version of the Spanish flan de leche.

A staple dessert and holiday treat ever since the Spanish brought it over, the Filipino leche flan is slightly different from its Spanish ancestor. For one, what we know as leche flan is known by another name in Spain: flan de leche. The filipino version is also heavier, made with condensed milk and more egg yolk.

EmbutidoJust like the morcon, embutido is yet another Spanish dish that has found itself transformed. While the Spanish embutido is a cured, dry sausage, the Filipino iteration is a meatloaf dish with raisins, carrots, breadcrumbs, and sausages.


Because of how long it takes to make, a paella is usually reserved for special occasions.

Because of how long it takes to make, paellas are usually reserved for special occasions like Christmas. It’ll take even longer if you decide to do it authentically, just like they do in Valencia, Spain, where the dish originated. Paella in Valencia is believed to have started in the 18th century, and spread all over the world by the 20th century.

Pancit SotanghonSotanghon noodles can be acquired easily nowadays. You can get it in groceries or your neighborhood palengke, and it does make one wonder how it earned its place on the Noche Buena table. The answer can be found back in history. While a local recipe, the noodles used for Sotanghon had to be imported either from Hong Kong or China, so serving it was only reserved for very special occasions.


The fruit salad as we know it today came from the Americans.

Finally, the fruit salad is yet another staple of the Christmas table. And why shouldn’t it be, with the variety of fruits on hand? While Filipinos were probably mixing fruits together for dishes long before we were colonized, the concept of the fruit salad as we know it today came from the Americans, and was popularized during the mid-19th century.Going on a food trip? Discover cheap hotel deals and cheap flights from carriers like Philippine Airlines, AirAsia, and more with Traveloka! ]]>

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