The Philippines holds the world record for having the longest Christmas season. When the first "ber" month begins (September is the first "ber" month), malls start playing Christmas carols and selling Christmas decor and gift items. It's always amusing to find Halloween costumes being sold side by side with Christmas trees but that's how it is.
In groceries and supermarkets, traditional Christmas food start to make an appearance too. Ham and queso de bola (Edam cheese) start to fill the freezers and shelves. The hot chocolate is made from local tablea, which is a ball of ground-up cacao beans. It's usually heated and combined with water to make a traditional Filipino chocolate drink. The ham and cheese are often enjoyed with pan de sal, which is a Filipino bread roll made from flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and salt. These are noche buena staples.
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Rice is, to Filipinos, what bread is to Westerners. For important occasions, rice is served in a very special way. Paella, an iconic Spanish dish, has been adopted by the Filipinos with gusto. Saffron might not be a standard in Filipino cooking but we have our own ways of coloring and flavoring our paella. Without saffron, the Filipino way to color and flavor the paella is with tomato and paprika, so it may end up more red than yellow.
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Filipino-Style Fruit Salad
When looking for holiday sweets on a Filipino menu, fruit salad is the number one choice. Filipinos have a peculiar way of serving fruit salad. It's most often with drained canned fruit cocktail, cream, and sweetened condensed milk. Guests will love this Filipino-style fruit salad!
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Finally, even in the Philipines, there's fruit cake. Families who count good bakers among its members have their own recipes; others simply buy fruit cake from local bakeries. The quality of fruit cake in the Philippines ranges from the terrible to the terrifically good. Prices vary from bakery to bakery.