It’s the New Year! What’s on your table for Media Noche?
Media Noche is a Spanish term that literally means, “midnight”. It is a tradition of Filipinos to put as much food on the table for the Media Noche because it is believed to bring prosperity for the whole year.
Most families serve heirloom family recipes. Some families infuse ingredients that are found within their locality. Tradition also dictates having 12 round fruits, desserts like leche flan, maja balanca, pastillas de leche or any sticky rice kakanin to complete the celebration. Most of the traditional foods have Hispanic, Chinese, Malay, American and European influences.
Callos is a Spanish-Filipino dish consisting of beef tripe, ox feet, potatoes, carrots, chorizo de bilbao, ham, bacon, olives, cheese then stewed in tomato sauce. This dish appears complicated to prepare because there are many steps and ingredients but it is actually easy. The cooking process consists of sautéing aromatics like garlic and onions, then pouring each ingredient one by one then simmering everything until the dish is cooked. The hard part is properly cleaning the ox tripe.
Lechon is a pork dish popular in several regions of the world, most specifically Spain and its former colonies around the world. Some culinary historians, however, believe that the Chinese introduced the art of roasting the pig in in the Philippines. Whoever came first, it is still a delectable dish to have at the table.
The pig is cooked by skewering the entire animal, entrails removed, on a large stick and cooking it in a pit filled with charcoal. The pig is placed over the charcoal, and the stick or rod it is attached to is turned in a rotisserie action.
The spices and rub used in roasting depend on the region. In Batangas and Southern Tagalog provinces, lechon sauce is added to enhance the flavor of the roasted pig. In the Visayas particularly in Cebu , lechon meat is already infused with spices and does not need any sauce.
Kare-kare is a classic and beloved Filipino stew made of meat and vegetables in thick creamy peanut sauce. Some culinary historians believe it was the Malays and Indians who introduced this dish into the country.
Banana blossom (puso ng saging), string beans, eggplants, bokchoy with shrimp paste (bagoong) are added to enhance the flavors. Filipinos often reserve this dish for big parties like town fiestas, christenings and weddings.
Menudo is one of the more commonly served dishes during special occasion. This is not the Mexican or South American version of menudo. The main ingredients are pork meat, pork liver, chopped potatoes, chopped carrots and slowly cooked with spices like black pepper.
Some pork menudo recipes include slices of hotdogs, green peas, chopped black olives, garbanzos, red and green bell pepper, liver spread. Others also add sun dried raisins for a sweet punch.
Lumpiang Shanghai is another popular easy-to-prepare dish with ground pork meat and tiny diced carrots wrapped in spring roll wrapper then deep fried
Pancit Guisado, another popular dish from the Guanzhou and Fujian provinces of China. The Chinese believe that serving long strands of noodles during birthdays, the new year and special occasions brings long life, prosperity and keeps the family intact.
Fun fact – Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s favorite pancit in Binondo is the Pancit Guisado ala Antigua Toho ( New Toho) which he mentioned in his novel Noli Me Tangere.
Spaghetti was introduced to the Filipino palate by the Americans in the late 19th century. Most of the canned tomato sauces were imported from the United States. Spaghetti became an instant hit among Filipinos.
Since the early 1940’s when tomato-based sauces including ketchup were in short supply due to the outbreak of war. Food technologist Maria Y. Orosa (1893-1945) a chemist, pharmacist, humanitarian and war heroine invented the banana ketchup recipe as a substitute. Eventually, Filipinos began using banana ketchup as base for their spaghetti sauce and as coating for barbecue marinades, The usual ingredients for the sauce are ground meat, hotdogs , slices of ham and cheese as topping.
The sweetened style sauce is very popular among Filipinos especially the children. This dish gradually replaced other dishes which are more time consuming in preparation.
This dish was popularized by several commercial fast food chain serving their own version of this popular dish.
Fun fact: President Quirino once hosted a Christmas party within Malacanang Palace serving Filipino style spaghetti sauce.
Camaron Rebosado is another popular dish served during special occasions. Shrimps or prawns are lightly coated with simple batter mixture and deep fried until golden brown. More elaborate dish call for shrimps stuffed with pork meat, chopped carrots which are coated in tempura batter then deep fried. Condiments like ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar with spices, sweet chili sauce are best suited with this deep-fried dish.
Ham and Chinese Pork Asado are also very popular dishes served during special occasions. Some of the well-known stores which specialize on hams are Adelina, Excelente and Emperor’s Ham in Quiapo, Garcia Ham’s in Quezon City, Santi, and Majestic Ham.
Another alternative dish is Chinese asado pork meat with their special sauce. These are available at Manila’s Chinatown and Chinese restaurants all over the country.
Paella is a traditional rice dish which traces its origin from Spain. This dish eventually reached the country via the Acapulco trade and introduced by the Mexican-Hispanics which settled in the Philippines in the late 16th century.
The dish was adapted by the use of locally-sourced ingredients like mussels, shrimps, rice, eggs, ginger, tomato, tomato sauce, paprika, salt and fish sauce.
This is favorite dish is served during Christmas, fiestas, and media noche especially among the well-to-do families.
Pork Hamonado is one of the traditional dishes that uses pork meat, bay leaves, whole peppercorns , soy sauce , sugar, pineapple fruit bits and juice. The pineapple juice acts as tenderizer and preservative. Some families also add chopped carrots, raisins, pickles, garbanzos, sausages or hotdog to enhance the color and flavor of this dish.
This dish is popular in the Tagalog and Northern Bicol provinces where pineapples are commonly grown.
Pancit sa Puti is a seldom-seen heirloom dish that originated from the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal and parts of northern Metro Manila. The noodles used is rice vermicelli and cooked without the use of soy sauce and only uses salt and vinegar as base. The ingredients are pork meat and fat, shrimps, celery with pork rinds (crushed chicharon bits), chopped spring onion leaves, chopped pechay, chopped coriander leaves with minced young kamias fruit enhance the flavor of this dish. Scrambled eggs and roasted peanuts are also used as toppings for additional texture and flavor.
What are your family heirloom dishes served during Media Noche?
Sources: National Historical Institute of the Philippines: MARIA Y. OROSA (1893–1945). Pioneering Food Technologist and Inventor
Jose, Ricardo (1998). KASAYSAYAN The Story of The Filipino People. Philippines: Asia Publishing Company Limited