What’s on the Table this Christmas: Young Chefs Share Their Noche Buena Ideas

Noche Buena is more than just a dinner, it’s a celebration of family heritage, too. Indeed, many of us have heirloom recipes that are never absent on the Christmas table.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t introduce a few new dishes into your tried-and-tested Noche Buena menu. You never know whether a new recipe will become the start of a new family tradition.

This week, Nurtura Land & Home reached out to three up-and-coming chefs in Mindanao to find out what they’re making for Christmas Eve. Hopefully, the dishes they share here will give you some inspiration for your own Noche Buena feast.


Chef Karlo Mercado, owner of Davao City’s Street Grub restaurant, prepares a diverse menu for his family’s Christmas dinner, which includes a mix of classic dishes along with an old-time favorite with a twist.

“Usual ko na niluluto for Christmas is Mexican lasagna, roast beef, baked salmon, roasted potatoes, mixed greens, and roasted chicken. We don’t usually have big gatherings at home. Usually mom, dad, and sisters ko lang. It’s been a tradition for many years that I do the cooking at home, and my mom is in charge of dessert.”

For those who want a different take on lasagna for Christmas dinner, here’s a recipe you can try:

Mexican Lasagna


  • 10 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp ground red chilies
  • 1 container (15 ounces) of ricotta cheese
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (4 ounces)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Cook and drain noodles as directed on the package.
  2. Cook beef, onion, cilantro, and red chilies in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown. Drain afterward.
  3. Place 5 of the noodles at the bottom of an ungreased rectangular baking dish measuring 13 x 9 x 2 inches. Layer with 1 1/2 cups of the beef mixture, 1 cup of the ricotta cheese, and 1 1/4 cups of the salsa. Repeat with remaining noodles, beef mixture, ricotta cheese, and salsa. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese.
  4. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until hot. Let it stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Street Grub is located at Unit D, Paseo Uno Bldg., Ruby St., Marfori Heights, Davao City


Meanwhile, Chef Mikko Garrido, who runs Asian Side Wok Kitchen here in Davao City, reveals that his family takes a lighter approach to the traditional Noche Buena by serving tapas instead.

“I usually make everything on my own, and sometimes my family helps. We are having our traditional tapas on Christmas Eve, which usually includes callos, paella, salpicao, and some bread and wine. We don’t really have any traditions except to eat!”

If you want a Spanish-inspired Noche Buena, check out this easy paella recipe!

Easy Paella


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 300g paella or risotto rice
  • 3 tbsp dry sherry or white wine (optional)
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes with garlic
  • 900ml chicken stock
  • 400g frozen seafood
  • Juice of ½ lemon, other half cut into wedges
  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Cooking Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and soften for 5 minutes. Stir in the paprika, thyme, and rice. Stir for 1 minute, then splash in the Sherry or wine, if using. Once it has evaporated, stir in the tomatoes and stock. Season and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring now and again until rice is almost tender and still surrounded with some liquid.
  • Stir the frozen seafood into the pan and cover with a lid. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the prawns are cooked through and the rice is tender. Squeeze over the lemon juice, scatter with parsley, and serve with extra lemon wedges.

Asian Side Wok Kitchen is located at Door 3, Montana Bldg., Mabini cor. Circumferential Road, Marfori Heights, Davao City


Chef Deborah Go, the restaurateur behind Manna and Quail Café in Valencia, Bukidnon, takes a cue from her restaurant’s menu and plans to serve a Filipino favorite for Christmas dinner:

“I come from a family whose palate is rooted in Filipino cuisine, so every Christmas season we always prepare Filipino home-cooked dishes. This Christmas, I’m cooking Kalderetang Kambing for our Noche Buena.”

Want to make Kalderatang Kambing for Christmas, too? We’re happy to share Chef Deborah’s very own recipe:


  • Meat: 2 kg of goat meat


  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 pc bay leaf
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 pcs kalamansi

After marination, cook with:

  • 30g black olives
  • 50g potatoes
  • 50g carrots
  • 40g pineapple tidbits
  • 30g green peas
  • 2 cups tomato sauce

Cooking Instructions

  • Marinate the goat meat in soy sauce, bay leaf, black pepper, and kalamansi juice for at least 3 hours, or overnight if possible.
  • After marination, sauté meat with a little bit of olive oil until it turns light brown.
  • Add water and bring to a boil then simmer for at least one hour or until meat is tender.
  • Add tomato sauce, potatoes, black olives, carrots, pineapple, and green peas.
  • Simmer for another 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

Manna and Quail is located at P8, Sayre Highway, Bagonta-as, Valencia, Bukidnon

We’d love to know what you’re serving for Christmas! Please share your recipes with us in the comments section.

Photo Credits:

Photo 1 from Pixabay.com

Photo 2 from BettyCrocker.com

Photo 3 from BBCGoodFood.com

Photo 4 from Chef Deborah Go


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