Holiday Table Cheat Sheet: 38 Amazing Dishes to Choose From
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Holiday Table Cheat Sheet: 38 Amazing Dishes to Choose From

Holiday Table Cheat Sheet: 38 Amazing Dishes to Choose From

Food & Entertaining | December 2, 2021
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From traditional to eclectic, casual, and more, JJ Yulo shares holiday table must-haves for your next Christmas feast.

Christmas is just around the corner. You may be busy finding gifts, sorting them out, or already sending them out to friends and loved ones! For those already at the latter, lucky you.

But if you’re reading this, chances are you’re in charge of putting your little feast on the table. Although I don’t know if you’re going to throw a party—especially since times dictate to be safe and not put so many people in one place—that also doesn’t mean you can’t spoil your immediate family or bubble with some holiday feasting.

What I’ve done here is to put together a number of themed menus. Just go and message these businesses on their respective Instagram accounts to order! And while you’re at it, feel free to mix and match if you wish—it’s a free world after all!

But take note that the dishes under their respective themes will pretty much complement each other. And you don’t have to get EVERYTHING on the menu, of course—unless you really want to and feel the need to stuff yourselves until you burst! Happy eating!

Holiday Table Cheat Sheet: 2021 Edition

An Eclectic Feast

This is a menu made up of dishes from all over the worldJapan, Bangkok, Peru, and Vietnam… you name it! But when you put it together, it just makes delicious sense. And so, if you’re feeling adventurous, and you want to travel a bit through your palate, walk this way:

Sushi Cake (Polaris Fine Foods): literally, sushi rice stuffed with wakame—surrounded by a wall of “frosting” made of fresh sashimi—and topped with even more premium sashimi. Polaris makes showstoppers that are made to be eaten with gusto!

Thai Steamed Fish (Thai Plate): the guys in this slice of Bangkok steam fish (apahap if they can get some good ones) and serve it with Thai seafood sauce. Delectable, especially for seafood lovers!

Bhel Puri (Ricksha Streetside Tandoor): an Indian street snack that’s so full of flavor and with lots of textures, too! It even has a tangy hit that’ll open your tastebuds for further treats to come.

Pollo Ala Brasa (Viaje By Kev): this is one of Manila’s best chicken dishes. The proprietor is a chef who worked in Peru, and learned to make this explosively tasty chicken dish—straight from the source!

Cochinillo (Macho Cochinillo): hands down one of the best versions of cochinillo I’ve tried. Order this with their cilantro rice, which makes a perfect accompaniment to this dish. And while you’re at it, slather on their Thai-inspired sauce and their salsa verde. SO GOOD!

Carrot Pineapple Cake (Flourpot PH): I stumbled on Flourpot PH because they sold donuts with whole berries in them! Since then, I’ve tried other creations, and they’re all very thoughtfully made and are of high quality! What’s more, their carrot cake is stunningly beautiful, and a good carrot cake, period. It even has pineapple mixed in, as well as pili!

Chicken Coconut Pho (Saigon Corner): I love the food from this Vietnamese place. They make innovative dishes like this—a chicken pho with coconut instead of noodles. It’s close to a binakol, and it’s even refreshing, I would say!

Traditional Christmas Fare

We all have our idea of what a traditional Christmas dinner will be like. After all, it’s that time of the year when Lola or mom will bust out their nicer places, and make time-honored dishes that you’ll probably eat once a year or so. Here’s a very subjective “traditional” menu—with dishes that are always equated with the holidays and special occasions.

Starters:

Caviar Pie and Brie Pie (Laguna Cake Co): I enjoyed the creative combo of The Double Date Box—half of the container is a caviar pie, while the other one’s made of Brie with dried fruit. Just what the occasion calls for!

Crusthins (Creamery Catering): Creamery Catering, I must say, is quite innovative. This latest of theirs—Crusthins—are like crackers on steroids. They are PERFECT with any kind of cheese and charcuterie and they’ll definitely make your grazing board so much better.

Pate & Onion Marmalade (Tosca Handcrafted): this is a little business that started with this product—a good chicken liver pate, best paired with onion marmalade. Great combo!

Salmon Cream Cheese (La Petite Fromagerie): these cheese mongers carry a lot of interesting cheeses and spreads. One of my favorites includes their salmon cream cheese spread. Spread them on crackers and get dinner rolling!

Greens:

Mixed Vegetables (Teraoka Farms): Teraoka is one of many family farms that grows amazing vegetables. See what they’ve got and build your salad with their fresh produce!

Green Goddess Dressing (Happy Ning Kitchen): this dressing is like the swiss army knife of dressings—eat it with crudites, toss in your salad, or if you’re feeling puckish, dip your chips in them.

Carvings:

Prime Rib (Holy Smokes BBQ): Holy Smokes is home to some of the best smoked and roasted food in town. I have yet to try something from them that I didn’t like. They’re currently offering prime rib with a mushroom demiglace gravy and horseradish cream. Very festive indeed!

Salmon En Croute (Brasserie Sagana): because not everyone wants a big hunk of meat, this salmon en croute—cooked until medium-rare—is lighter but still a knockout, especially when doused in the accompanying leek sauce.

Christmas Ham (Wildflour): Wildflour has been making this ham for years, and it never grows old. Sweet, smoky, and a bit fatty, and tender—put them in pandesal and munch away.

Desserts:

Chocolate Cake (Cakes.byLouise): this is a chocolate cake that people of a slightly older generation will recognize with much fondness—classic with a deep chocolate icing and a stripe of a rich custard-like filling down the middle. I added a little milk to this—maybe you should too!

Filipino Favorites

This is the one closest to our hearts. The equivalent of a hug from a thousand lolas, a Filipino spread during the holidays always hits the spot. Punch up this selection with some fruit salad or some macaroni salad, and call it a day!

Appetizers:

Kesong Puti (Kesong P’s Premium Kesong Puti): one of the finest versions of kesong puti in the market, to be honest.

Sliced Ham (The Plaza): I remember having this as a child, and to this day it remains as one of the most consistent hams you can buy—whatever time of the year.

Chicken Empanada (Mama Empanada): I never tire of munching on these chicken empanadas when they’re in front of me. It’s made from a family recipe, and it always delivers.

Mains:

Kare Kare Bagnet Cake (XO46 Heritage Bistro): when I tried this, it made me so happy. This cake is super meaty and generously filled with their 72-hour Bagnet and a XO46 bestseller—Kare Kare Classico.

Lechon Manok (Sarsa): the Sarsa team is a master at doing grilled food in Pinoy style. Their lechon manok platter is a worthy holiday centerpiece. Plus, it also comes with other sticks of grilled meats, and wonderfully spiced vinegars.

Pancit Malabon (Betsy’s Cakes Malabon): here’s the truth—once you’ve tried pancit that actually comes from Malabon, you’ll realize that a lot of the other pancit Malabons you’ve tried don’t come close. Betty’s is an institution, and with good reason, too—they do honest, delicious food… and have been doing it for generations!

Bakareta (Mamarins): just like a lot of dishes on this list, bakareta is the proprietress’ family pride and joy. It really is one of the deepest, most satisfying versions of this stew out there.

Desserts:

Dulce Gatas (DG Baby Dulce Gatas): Dulce Gatas is an Ilonggo treat that has given a sugar rush to generations of Negrense peeps. Order it by the small tub, and eat straight… or try their individually-wrapped portions of it!

Buko Pie (ShopProbinsyana): Probinsiyana has this flakey, light buko pie from Laguna that really caught my attention—simply because it captures the flavor of buko and tastes so fresh.

Chinese Classics

For many families, including mine, a lot of events are punctuated with a Chinese meal. This menu is definitely going to feel special, with classic Chinese dishes that everyone can enjoy.

Dimsum Platter (Empress Dining): even before the crazy times, I was always in the opinion that some of the best dimsum in Manila is made at Empress. Of course, it’s still best to eat it fresh—but to be honest, the Empress Dimsum platter doesn’t disappoint!

Kikiam (Angkong’s Kikiam): this is one of my pandemic discoveries, too. It’s a classic kikiam the way it was made back in the day—chunky, and a bit of fat. Yessir, it’s a keeper!

Suckling Pig (8 Treasures): if you want to taste Hong Kong roasties again, one of the closest ways to do it is to order from 8 Treasures. Their suckling pig can be ordered whole and it’s a perfect holiday indulgence!

Pat Po Kwe aka Eight Treasures Chicken (Wok with Mom): Pat Po Kwe is a time-consuming dish to make, but such a reward to eat. Just think—a whole chicken stuffed with glutinous rice and other morsels, in a thick sauce. Eat with chili garlic for a spicy kick!

Hot & Sour Soup (Choomp Choomp): this little biz is pretty prolific—offering both Japanese and Chinese dishes. Their hot and sour soup—one of my favorites—is full of textures, and has a nice spice kick with a pleasingly sour finish.

Char Siu (Sambar): these guys are masters of the things they make. They just do it well, and this Char Siu is no exception.

Fresh Chinese Lumpia (Chinamommy): one of the most time-consuming dishes to make because of all the prep work, Chinamommy makes one of the best.

Kiampung (Gan Gourmand): a classic Chinese favorite with lots of sahog. Yum!

Casual Eats

Some of you out there may just want to laze in front of the TV and watch Netflix, or you may be in a Grinch mood and not really feeling the holidays. For the latter, I’m sorry you feel that way, but fret not—there are still terrific casual dishes to be had to coax some cheer from you!

Spicy Fried Chicken (Aguirre Fried Chicken): one of my top favorite things I’ve had in the past year, this is one amazing chicken product that will honestly sit proudly on anyone’s table—and with a fair price to boot!

Lamb Biang Biang Noodles and Cucumbers (Pilya’s Kitchen): the lady behind Pilya’s can cook Chinese noodles with the best results! I say slurp down some lamb noodles and munch on her much-vaunted spicy cucumber side dish. Yum!

Butter Chicken Karaage (Kuma Kuma Curry): the team behind this little biz makes probably one of the highest quality Japanese curries that I’ve tried here. You cannot go wrong. As a starting point, I do recommend the Butter Chicken Karaage—yes, it’s Indian in origin, but still very Japanese.

Shrimp and Chorizo Tacos (Lagrima): what can I say? There’s always room for tacos, and Lagrima is definitely the place to try some of them. Knock yourself out and get shrimp and chorizo tacos—it’s Christmas after all!

I hope this list made you hungry to try some of these, or at least hungry, period. It’s been another crazy year, but things look just a little bit brighter. Let’s hope and pray it all gets better so we can all see each other again. In the meantime, stay safe, love strong, and have a truly blessed Christmas!

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JJ loves and appreciates good things - delicious food, interesting stories, compelling words, entrancing images, beautiful places, groove filled music - and wants to share it with anyone who cares to listen. He is a friendly face whorls happens to be a food enthusiast. If you want to know what to eat and where you should go, JJ is your guy.
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