My Mom's Leche Flan and Noche Buenas of Old

My mom tells me she learned how to make leche flan the way she does through her mother-in-law, my Dad’s mom — a typical Bulakeña who knew how to make a lot of kakanins and all that other good stuff.  She only puts in the yolks, adds condensed milk to the usual evaporated milk, and I believe what sets it apart is that they put lemon zest (or dayap as it is known in Manila) and then strain the liquid in cheesecloth before it is double baked or steamed in one of those huge kalans or cauldrons.

I have tasted many variations of the flan, even the Frencha nd Italian kind — and never have I tasted anything close to what Mom and my aunts make.  It’s like yema in its sweetness, but firmer in consistency.  Dad likes one side crusty and toasted, but I prefer mine smooth and silky as it should be.  This Christmas, I requested Mom to make some for me and I’m savoring every bit of it.  It’s just like our usual fare back home.  Too bad I didn’t have a cauldron big enough to cook the ube in  or else we would’ve tried — and we don’t have the macapuno which is nothing like the bottled ones available commercially. 

Sometimes I find myself craving for matamis and I pick up a bottle or two from the Filipino store — but it’s never the same.  The consistency is not quite right and the sweetness is usually over the top which makes it less delectable.  These are the things I truly miss — the things that made our noche buena (Christmas Feast) truly memorable.

I also miss the Majestic ham which we used to reserve, fall in line for, and then grab on Christmas and New Year’s everight where they make it in Mandaluyong.  Mom would sear the caramelized sugar on ths skin to help it melt and meld into the fat again, and I would watch her slice it diagonally from the narrow portion up for our family dinner.  We always got special raisin bread from Hizon’s in Jorge Bocobo — and although I didn’t get to grab some raisin bread during my last visit home in 2002, I managed to have merienda there with Alan.

Spanish chocolate and Quezo De Bola were also staples — both of which are available from the Filipino stores but we got our supply this year via special delivery.  Mom brought a few rolls of Alfredo Pueo (bought straight from Unimart) and a friend of Alan’s gave us Marca Piña Quezo de Bola (Edam cheese) from San Francisco. 

Although we spent Christmas eve with my in-laws, I am trying to plan a simple family feast for the New Year — but that’s if I can convince Alan to celebrate it simply in the house by ourselves instead of seeking out a New Year’s Eve party either with the in-laws again or with friends.

I remember we spent our first New Year’s eve together (2000) alone in our tiny one-bedroom apartment because he was down with the flu.. In 2001 we spent it with friends in New Jersey, in 2002, we spent it by ourselves at our own place (our first new year there.)  2003 saw us going on a New Year’s Eve early dinner, we stopped by my in-laws just to say hello and then we went home and met the New Year at our own place.  (No champagne toast for me because I was pregnant with Angel then.  In 2004, we hosted the family in our cramped co-op, but we managed to do a fairly sumptous spread.

This year, I’d ideally like to celebrate it just with Alan and Mom and Angel.  I might even try to pull off a standing roast if I can get it in time (and if I can borrow my mother-in-law’s convection oven).  Or I might even just buy ham from the Filipino store in Woodside.  (Something akin to our Purefoods ham back home..)  There’s a big party at the in-laws but I’m not too sure I’m going to enjoy my New Year’s even smoozing and wining with people I just met.  So I’m playing it by ear.

I already have my quezo de bola, Mom’s leche flan, and the spanish chocolate ready.  Maybe Alan and I can have dinner at some nice restaurant in the city, then have noche buena at home with Mom.  That would be nice.. I’m still thinking, though.. and yes, I know it’s just days away but that’s just me — Ms. Last Minute everytime.

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