The Happy Home Cook: More Christmas Recipes

The Happy Home Cook features cherished recipes of Filipino dishes from well-known foodies and contributors. If you have a recipe that you are proud of and would like to share, please send it along with a photo of the dish, your two-sentence bio and your picture to

Ensaladang Labong 

From “My Mother’s Philippine Recipes” Cookbook

Ensaladang Labong (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Ensaladang Labong (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

To this day, whenever I return to our childhood home in Tarlac, my sister Isabel still prepares labong the way Mom did when we were kids. Labong are bamboo shoots and are abundant all over the Philippines. There are many ways bamboo shoots are used as an ingredient in different provinces, from sautéing in Ilocos to cooking in coconut milk in the Visayas. In our home, Mom often cooked labong with shrimps and saluyot, a leafy vegetable, for lunch. Perhaps my favorite dish was Mom’s Labong Salad—crunchy, slim strips with pork and shrimp in a tangy, sweet vinaigrette. Every time I make this warm salad in my own kitchen, I am immediately transported back to our home in Tarlac and Mom’s cooking. 

Serves 4


3 cups labong (fresh or canned), cut into thin 2-inch strips  

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil 

1 onion, chopped 

2 garlic cloves, minced 

½ pound pork shoulder, sliced into 2-inch long strips (or use ground pork) 

½ pound fresh shrimps, peeled, heads and tails removed 

2 Tablespoons soy sauce 

1 Tablespoon sugar 

4 Tablespoons cider vinegar 

1 teaspoon sea salt 

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper  

2 Tablespoons crushed peanuts


  • Place the bamboo shoots in a medium-sized stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the bamboo shoots are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the shoots and arrange on a serving platter. Set aside. 

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions, garlic and pork for 5 to 6 minutes until the meat is nearly cooked.  

  • Add the shrimps and stir to combine the ingredients. Continue cooking until the shrimps turn pink and are completely cooked. Spoon this mixture over the bamboo shoots on the serving platter. Set aside. 

  • In the same skillet, add the soy sauce and sugar. Cook for 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vinegar, salt, pepper and blend the ingredients well.  

  • Sprinkle the soy sauce mixture and peanuts over the Ensaladang Labong. Serve warm or chilled as an appetizer, side dish, or main dish. 

  • Cook’s comments: Fresh bamboo looks like a large, long slab and roundish in shape, and can be purchased in Asian markets. It should be blanched and cooked as soon as it is harvested to maintain its sweetness. When fresh bamboo is not available, I use the canned variety. 

My Mother’s Philippine Recipes

My Mother’s Philippine Recipes

Pork Bagnet

Pork Bagnet (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Pork Bagnet (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

The Pork Bagnet is the Ilocano version of lechon kawali. Cook the slab of pork twice and chop it into cubes, then deep fry the pork for a few minutes more till the skin is blistered, crisp and crackling. Serve with a side sauce of either the following—a) sweet lechon sauce or b) savory bagoong balayan (fish and shrimp paste) sprinkled with calamansi or lime -- this was the Ilocano way of my late father-in-law. Lechon Kawali is good served with a side of 'achara' sweet-savory papaya pickles. This is an Asian In America recipe adapted from a previous blog post. Serves 2 to 4 as an entree.


pork belly (liempo in the Philippines) whole slab - 2 pounds

sea salt - 1 teaspoon

freshly ground black pepper powder - 1 teaspoon

vegetable or corn oil - 1/2 cup

achara or sweet green papaya pickles - for serving (recipe on previous blog post)

lechon sauce - for serving (bottled is found in Asian markets or online sources)

boiled rice - for serving


  • Place whole slab of pork belly in a deep stockpot. Fill with enough water to cover the pork. Add salt and black pepper to the meat and liquid. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. When the liquid boils, lower heat to a simmer. Cook this amount of 2 lbs. for one hour till pork is tender at the sides and no more pink parts are visible.

  • When boiled pork is cooked, drain the liquid. Transfer the pork to an oven roasting pan which has a wire rack. Place the pork on the rack. Roast in the oven at 250 F for two hours (for 2 lbs. of pork belly). The pork should be slightly brown at the end of cooking.

  • Transfer cooked pork slab on a flat tray and allow to air dry for 1 to 2 hours.

  • To cook crisp pork pieces of lechon kawali: over medium high heat, add oil in a large skillet. Oil should be hot enough in about 3 to 4 minutes. If taking the temperature with a thermometer, oil should be about 350F. Chop the pork pieces into 2-inch square cubes. Deep fry in the oil till the pork skin looks golden brown and has blisters. Cook the pieces for about 8 minutes till crisp.

  • Serve while the pork belly pieces or lechon kawali are piping hot and crispy with a side of "lechon sauce" (bottled or homemade). Serve with rice and homemade 'achara' (green papaya pickles).

Cathedral Windows Gelatin

From “How to Cook Philippine Desserts, Cakes and Snacks”

Cathedral Windows Gelatin (Photo by By Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Cathedral Windows Gelatin (Photo by By Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

The Cathedral Windows Gelatin dessert was probably named for its colorful gelatin cubes that resemble the mosaic windows of a church. During the holidays, the colorful gelatin cubes of bright red and green make this gelatin treat a bright addition to the table. This is a favorite dessert of our family—my sons love the luscious creaminess of white gelatin encasing those vivid cubes. I like that it needs no baking and can be prepared in advance. This version was inspired by a family recipe from my college classmate Popi Gutay. 

Yield: 4 to 6 servings 



2 boxes red gelatin 

2 boxes green gelatin 

½ cup cubed peaches, fresh or canned

For the white gelatin: 

4 (¼-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin 

2 cups boiling water 

1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk 

2 cups heavy cream


  1. Prepare the red and green gelatin separately, according to package directions, and refrigerate overnight. 

  2. To make the white gelatin, mix the unflavored gelatin with boiling water in a medium bowl. Blend well until the gelatin is completely dissolved. 

  3. Mix in the condensed milk and stir well to incorporate into the gelatin. 

  4. Add the heavy cream and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool for about 30 minutes, but do not let it become too firm.  

  5. To assemble the dessert, cut the red and green gelatin into 1-inch cubes and place them in a large gelatin mold, about 9 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep. Use any round, square or rectangular-shaped mold preferred.

  6. Add the peaches and mix into the colored solid gelatin cubes. 

  7. Pour the white gelatin mixture over the cubes of colored gelatin and peaches. 

  8. Cover the dessert mold with plastic wrap, sealing tightly around the edges. Refrigerate overnight until firm. When ready to serve, invert the container over a festive platter and carefully unmold the gelatin. 

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey is a journalist and author of the “How to Cook Philippine Desserts: Cakes and Snacks” Cookbook. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and blogs about Filipino home cooking on her site

More articles from Elizabeth Ann Quirino