Simbang Gabi is a well-loved holiday tradition among Filipino Catholics. It is a series of 9 Novena Masses, beginning on the morning of December 16, and culminating with the Misa de Gallo on Christmas Eve.
Each year, hundreds of devotees are present at these 4 a.m. Masses. But apart from the Mass itself, there is another part of the Simbang Gabi tradition that people look forward to — the local delicacies served outside the church.
Vendors selling favorites like bibingka and puto bumbong are ready to feed church-goers before dawn on Simbang Gabi mornings.
These yummy treats are also available at certain establishments all year round, so there is no need to wait for Christmas to have your fill of them.
To help you look forward to Simbang Gabi, we’ve come up with a list of Filipino Simbang Gabi food favorites, plus where you can get them any time of the year.
Bibingka topped with cheese
Bibingka is a Filipino rice cake traditionally cooked with direct heat from charcoal above and below it. When served, it is brushed with butter and topped with cheese, salted egg and niyog.
Traditionally eaten at Christmas, bibingka is a well-known “symbol” of the holidays in the Philippines. In fact, it was once included in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Traditional Holiday Foods.
If you find yourself craving for bibingka even beyond Simbang Gabi season, you can always drop by Ferino’s outlets (PHP 125 for Bibingka Extra Super with salted egg and kesong puti), or buy a box of Bibingkinitan mini bibingka delicacies at the mall (PHP 120 for a box of 6).
Puto bumbong with niyog and sugar
This bright purple kakanin is another Simbang Gabi staple. Puto bumbong is sticky rice that is steamed in bamboo tubes. It gets its color from the variety of rice used to make it, called pirurutong.
This holiday favorite is usually served topped with butter or margarine. Shredded coconut and sugar are also added to it.
Via Mare serves delicious puto bumbong (PHP 80) throughout the year, along with other native snack specialties.
For a unique take on this classic Filipino treat, try Early Bird Breakfast Club’s Puto Bumbong Pancakes (PHP 325). Take note though that these are available for a limited time only.
Sticky and chewy kutsinta
Kutsinta is a brown rice cake that is both sticky and chewy. It gets its color from lye water, which is one of the ingredients used in making it. This delicacy is best eaten topped with grated coconut.
You can buy kutsinta at many local pasalubong stores or native delicacy shops. One of the most popular is Dolor’s Kakanin by Mommy’s Malabon Pride (PHP 50 for 8 pieces).
Suman wrapped in banana leaves
Suman is another rice cake that is popular during Simbang Gabi. This dish is prepared differently in different provinces.
It is commonly made by cooking sticky rice in coconut milk, forming the rice into “logs”, then steaming them in a banana leaf wrapper.
Some of the best suman in Metro Manila can be found year-round at Aging’s Food Delight (PHP 15 for suman espesyal). You can also buy special Budbud Gourmet Suman (PHP 30 – PHP 40 each) from the Salcedo and Legazpi markets in Makati.
A cup of hot tsokolate made with traditional Filipino tableya
You may need something to wash down all of these delicious Simbang Gabi foods. A hot cup of coffee can do the trick on early mornings, but if you want something more traditional, have a cup of tsokolate.
There are two kinds – Tsokolate Eh and Tsokolate Ah. The former is a thick and rich cup of chocolate, while the latter is a more watered down version.
A brief history on the difference between the two, based on an excerpt from Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, was shared on the food blog JoeiandMe.com.
It shows how Padre Salvi would serve thicker hot chocolate to his important visitors, and a watered down version to those he considered of little importance.
For a cup of Tsokolate Eh any time of the year, visit Café Mary Grace (PHP110). If you want to try Tsokolate Ah, you can order some at Tsoko Nut Batirol (Regular PHP 78, Large PHP89).
What are your favorite Simbang Gabi eats? Share them with us by leaving a comment below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patricia de Castro-Cuyugan
If you have any insights, questions or comments regarding the topic, please share them in our Comment box below. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Google+ to stay up-to-date on the latest from theAsianparent.com Philippines!