We Are Already Craving These Delicious And Decadent Noche Buena Dishes
I don’t care what time of year it is–I’m always emocionada for the shockingly massive piles of food that reach my plate at the holidays. Whether you feast on Christmas Day, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) or every day of the year, you’re guaranteed get nostalgic (and very hungry) previewing your menu this year. Promise, this is what you’re eating.
If you’re Mexican, there will be pozole.
I mean, there will always be pozole, no matter the time of year, but at the holidays, your mami might actually buy raw hominy instead of the can. It’s a special occasion.
Tamales are always the showstopper.
For two days before Christmas, there are half a dozen tias dancing up a storm in the kitchen. If you look closely enough, you realize they’re actually prepping and cooking a hundred tamales for the biggest family dinner of the year.
Or, if you’re Puerto Rican, you’ll eat pasteles.
Instead of corn, platanos verdes are used for the masa and stuff them with all the sofrito and pork available. Boiled banana leaves hold it all together instead of corn husks to wrap them.
Island gente will have ropa vieja.
Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, are all about this shredded beef dish. Just looking at it makes me miss my abuela and the most exciting times of my childhood: when we were eating her ropa vieja.
Of course, dinner will be at the house con la caja china.
It’s the most effective and delicious way to slow roast a shocking amount of animal flesh for the family festivities. Cuidado, because sometimes the neighbors get a whiff and just invite themselves in.
The main dish will be lechón.
As a kid, it was mildly disturbing, but the adults just tell you to move past it because it’s all the sabroso. Eventually, you stop naming the pig and just dig in.
Venezuelans crush the Pan de Jamón
Speaking of jamón, Venezuelans know how to combine the best flavors into one single bite. It doesn’t matter where you come from, if the panadería is selling, you’re buying this pan.
Ensalada de Gallina will be the only salad at the table.
Another Venezolana classic, it’s not Navidad without this tasty potato salad. Unlike the kind you’d find at an American grocery store, this one includes pollo, carrots, peas, green apple, and pineapple. We put la fruta in everything.
Every Latino meal will have some version of Moros y Cristianos.
Call it gallo pinto, arroz con frijoles, moros y cristianos, cualquiera: Latinos make it best. More specifically, we make it in a 10 gallon massive pot and hope for leftovers. The next morning, we fry an egg on top and it’s perfección.
Boricuas will have arroz con gandules on deck.
We’re here for the saffron, pigeon peas and olives. It’s gallo pinto for breakfast and arroz con gandules for all the other special occasions.
Buñelos con Almíbar de Vino y Canela everywhere.
Pretty much all of us have some version of this crispy, sweet, doughy pastry. Don’t even call this a donut hole.
You can’t have a buñelo sin champurrado.
It’s basically Mexican hot chocolate but there’s nothing basic about it. It’s thick, it’s spicy and it’s secret ingredient is masarica and cinnamon.
Of course, someone’s going to bring ponche.
Somehow, Panettone is always available.
Panettone was brought from Italy to South America and we have reclaimed it as our Latin fruitcake. Every Miami supermarket carries them and every Latino in Miami has a slice on noche buena.
If you’re Cuban, you already know what follows this picture:
It’s Crème de Vie, the Cuban version of eggnog. They’re real heavy on the Bacardí.
Mientras, Boricuas can’t get enough of coquito.
The main difference between coquito and crèma de vie is that Puerto Ricans used condensed coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. We’re dairy intolerant.
That arroz con leche though.
Latinos cannot have a single meal without rice, not even dessert. Everyone makes it a little different, but I always make it with coconut milk and heavy on the canela.
Natillas are basically Latino Christmas pudding.
Please hold while I collect my drool. Sometimes called Dulce de Leche, this is basically a thick, creamy vanilla cinnamon custard. Galletas required.
Last but far from least: flan
It’s the dessert that you’ve never made but love to eat. Thankfully your abuela and tías continue to bring it to every party. It’s not that I don’t think I can make it, it’s that I’m afraid to make it without a flock of Latinos to help me eat it.
Oh, but it’s not over yet.
Literally one week later, we gather again for Rosca de Reyes.
January 6 is Three Kings Day and you’re forbidden from taking down Christmas decorations until after the three kings have come to visit baby Jesús. Of course, it’s just another excuse to plan another family celebration because whoever gets the slice with the baby figurine in it has to host the next dinner. Tamales required.