Khok: After 25

WHAT makes Christmas such a wonderful time is the show of love and family togetherness.

Christmas is that one time of the year when family members remember one another in a positive way. Love abounds at this time of the year. While during the rest of the year people might forget to greet loved ones on their birthdays or wedding anniversaries, not so at Christmas.

No matter how busy people are, they make time to say “Merry Christmas.” What’s more, no matter how tight the family budget might be, people look for ways to give something to an uncle or a nephew as a token of the season.

Food is another area that weighs heavily at Christmas (and maybe gaining weight as well). I have to say that the wealth of food that some people prepare for the Christmas meal makes it appear as if the phrase “financial crisis” does not exist.

I’m expecting a sumptuous Christmas meal this year. Relatives now living in Chicago are coming home for the family reunion. My Aunt Tita Blitte decided on a barrio fiesta theme.

“After all, it’s not every year that we splurge on our Christmas meal. It would be so good to let our ‘stateside’ relatives taste Filipino fiesta fare once more.”

You can imagine a parade of fiesta stars taking the catwalk: Lechon, morcon, pork hamonado, humba, Chinese ham, pancit, beef with onions, estofado and more. I do not think we will have all these dishes, but I am sure it will be feast the cousins, nephews, nieces and grandchildren will talk about when they go home.

One quiet morning this week, I found my aunt in the kitchen preparing breakfast. “You know, Ober, I’m expecting we will have a lot of leftover food after Dec. 25.”

I agreed with her. I pictured rehashed food. Lechon would become paksiw. Humba will be cubed and cooked with vegetables. Ham will be diced to add to the macaroni soup. The scene the day after Christmas is less festive.

My aunt said she plans to make rice balls to cleanse the palate. “We can all sit down in the kitchen, laugh and talk as we make rice balls,” she said.

RICE BALLS. Make sure to use Japanese rice because the grains stick together well. If you only have regular rice, mix it with one-fourth cup pre-soaked (30 minutes) glutinous rice. There are also local rice grains that are a bit glutinous. When the rice is cooked, fluff it up. Flavor the rice according to taste with light soy sauce, sesame seeds (optional) and snipped nori (optional). You can also instead opt to add white vinegar and sugar. You can even use oyster sauce if that is what you want. Go spicy if people at home like it.

To assemble: Scoop a handful of rice, flatten it out and fill the center with any stuffing you like. In our case, it will be chopped lechon or some of the reheated beef with onions, humba or hamonado. You can also use shrimps, corned beef, cubed ham, cubed cheese or roasted chicken.

The important point to remember is to have fun as a family after Dec. 25.

Have a blessed and filling Christmas, everyone!

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