Christmas is a time of tradition. It is a time when we try to emulate our childhood memories, bring back fond things to enhance our happiness. It is a time when we try to teach our kids about the traditions that make the season joyful and enjoyable for us. One thing that is pretty ingrained in the minds of most people is the types of food that they grew up enjoying during Christmas. Some of those foods are available in the Philippines, some are not. Some traditional foods that we associate with Christmas, or other holidays, while not readily available in the Philippines, can still be prepared the old fashioned way – from scratch.
A lot of people have a nice ham as one of the main dishes that grace the Christmas feast. Believe it or not, ham can be a hard thing to find in the Philippines. Except during Christmas! During the Christmas season, starting around the first of December, the stores are filled with various types of hams. You will find imported hams, local hams, and a perennial favorite is Chinese ham. Really, as far as I know, none of the Chinese hams are actually from China, rather it is a style of ham with a unique seasoned flavor that is a bit different than the hams that you may have experienced in western countries.
Over the years, a Filipino friend of mine has raved to me about Chinese ham. This particular friend lives in the USA, and has lived there for years. He has told me about how much he misses Chinese ham in the Philippines, something that goes back to his childhood Christmas celebrations. Last year, Christmas 2011, Feyma and I decided to try a Chinese ham to see how we liked it. But, we didn’t decide on that until the morning of Christmas Eve. We went on a mad dash to all of the grocery stores to find a Chinese ham, but unfortunately, none were left on the shelves by that time. So, we had a more traditional western style ham for Christmas last year.
This year, though, during the first week of December, I was in the grocery store and saw a rack of Chinese hams there. These hams are not cheap, believe me. I decided to try one. I chose a ham that was 2.37 Kg, roughly a 5.2 pound ham. The cost of this ham was P1457.55, or roughly $36. Since I found this in early December, we decided to try it out before Christmas to see if we liked it or not, and if we liked it we would buy another one for our Christmas meal.
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The ham I purchased is from a company called King Sue, which is in Metro Manila. When we opened the ham, we found that there were fairly extensive instructions on how to prepare it. This was not like the hams we had prepared in the past where you just put it in the oven and heat it up! No, you had to soak the ham in water first. Then you had to boil it in water. Then you had to prepare a different liquid to boil it in. Basically, preparing this ham took the better part of the day. We were all looking forward to trying this ham for the first time – who doesn’t like a good ham, after all!
After Feyma did all of the preparation of the ham, and we sat down for an early Christmas test feast, we all got to decide what we thought of the Chinese ham. What were the common reactions:
- It was quite salty.
- It was somewhat tough compared to other hams.
Overall, it was not a terrible meal. But, it was not something that we would opt for a second time. We all preferred the flavor and experience of eating a more traditional western style ham. But, at least now, our curiosity about Chinese ham has been satisfied. We did enjoy it, but we will go back to the hams that we enjoy more.
So, what ham do we prefer? In the freezer section of most grocery stores you can find a ham from Pure Foods called a “Fiesta Ham.” That’s our Christmas favorite!
Merry Christmas, everybody!