Chef Fernando Aracama Shares His Secret Holiday Recipes at The Maya Kitchen

holiday recipes

One will immediately associate Chef Fernando “Fern” Aracama with the roster of his famous bars and restaurants, including Aracama Filipino Cuisine, Opus, Republiq & Café Republiq, and The Tides Hotel Boracay, to name a few. Chef Fern hails from Bacolod and graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration. He continued to improve his craft by taking up further studies at The New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont USA, and went on as a 2003 Cochran Fellowship Program Awardee at the Hilton College, University Of Houston, Texas, USA.

Chef Fern Aracama’s holiday cooking demo, titled “Memories of Holidays Past”, takes inspiration from the traditional Media Noche meals that awaited him and his family on a typical Christmas eve. However, the recipes are far from the recipes we have grown up with, and offers a new twist to Media Noche dishes.

Try out these delightful recipes for you and your family this holiday season.

holiday recipes

Malunggay and Cheese Dip


Serves four (4)

Malunggay and Mozzarella dip is nutritious greens in a creamy, cheesy brûleé best served with crispy crostini. This is a signature appetizer in Aracama Filipino Cuisine, one of Chef Fern’s restaurants.

 50 g               blanched and chopped malunggay leaves**

50 g                blanched and chopped spinach leaves**

¼ cup            heavy cream

½ cup            cream cheese, room temperature

¼ tsp             ground white pepper

1 tsp               onion powder

¼ tsp             sea salt

140 g              grated cheese, your choice – cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan


In a food processor bowl: Put in the blanched and chopped malunggay and spinach. Process to chop further.

  1. Add in the heavy cream, cream cheese, ground pepper, onion powder and sea salt. Process until the mixture is smooth and well blended.
  2. Spoon the mixture on to a bake proof dish and spread out evenly. Top with grated cheese and broil in the oven or an oven toasted until the cheese is hot and bubbly.
  3. Serve with crostinis or warm toasted bread or crackers.

**Note: Blanching technique: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add some sea salt and then blanch the malunggay & spinach leaves for no more than 30 seconds. Immediately remove, drain & shock in a bowl of ice water.

Drain the blanched leaves & gently squeeze out excess water.


holiday recipes

Patatas Riojana


Serves four (4)

A very simple yet hearty and delicious potato and chorizo soup Chef Fern revisited on his recent trip to Spain.

3 tbsp           olive oil

1/3 cup        chopped white onions

1 tbsp           chopped garlic

2 pcs             chorizo, sliced

1 tbsp            paprika

2 pcs              bay leaf

¼ cup           white wine

600 grams   potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1.5 liters        flavorful chicken stock, bring to a simmer separately

1 tsp                ground white pepper

to taste          sea salt


  1. In a pot, warm the olive oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and the chorizos. Render some of the fat from the chorizos.
  2. Add the paprika and bay leaf. Cook for a few moments and then add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and cook until the potatoes are done.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lightly mash the potatoes with a ladle. This will add texture to the soup.
  4. Serve hot.
holiday recipes

Grilled Ensaimada Media Noche Style


Serves four (4)

Hot and crusty butter grilled ensaimada stuffed with Chinese ham and queso de bola. 

4 pcs              ensaimada, large size, cut in half

4 tbsp            Dijon or yellow mustard

4 tbsp            pickle relish

½ cup           grated queso de bola or your choice of cheese

1-1 ½ cup    shredded Chinese ham

½ cup            butter, softened


  1. Take the halved ensaimada and turn it inside out.
  2. Spread the mustard and the pickle relish on the bottom slice.
  3. Top with the grated cheese and the shredded Chinese ham. Turn over the other half to cover the filling.
  4. Heat up a non-stick pan over medium heat and add about a tablespoon of butter. When the butter has melted, grill the ensaimada until nice and crusty.
  5. Add some more butter and turn over to grill the other side of the ensaimada. It should have a golden brown crust.
  6. Slice the sandwich in half and serve with a side of Insalata Uva.


holiday recipes

Insalata Uva


Serves four (4)

Insalata Uvato goes with the Grilled Ensaimada. This is his signature salad with honey balsamico vinaigrette, toasted pine nuts, green and red grapes and kesong puti.

Honey Balsamico Vinaigrette:

2 tbsp            Balsamic Vinegar

1 tbsp            honey

2 tsp              mustard

1 tsp              chopped shallots

¼ tsp            sea salt

¼ tsp            ground white pepper

pinch            dried thyme

½ cup           olive oil


  1. In a bowl or blender jar, combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil.
  2. Whisk or blend until the sea salt is dissolved. While whisking or blending, add the olive oil in a thin stream until the vinaigrette is emulsified.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill until ready to use.

Salad garnishes:

300 grams    assorted lettuces, washed & dried

80 grams       seedless red & green grapes, halved

1/3 cup          Kesong Puti, diced (optional)

¼ cup             pine nuts or walnuts, toasted in a pan


holiday recipes

Bunuelos and Spiced Chocolate Dip


Serves four (4)

 These are the recipes of Chef Fern’s dear Abuelita of deep fried choux pastries served with a thick and smooth milk chocolate dip. A perfect dish for Christmas.

1 cup             water

35 g               unsalted Butter

½ tsp            white sugar

1/8 tsp          salt

1 cup              Maya All Purpose Flour

2                       large whole eggs

corn oil for deep frying


  1. In a pot, combine the water, butter, white sugar and salt. Bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and immediately add all of the flour and bring back over a medium flame. Vigorously beat with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer into a mixer bowl. Beat slowly and add the eggs one at a time until fully mixed and smooth.
  4. Set aside batter.
  5. In another deep pot, heat the corn oil. Using a small ice cream scooper or two spoons; drop small balls of batter into the hot oil. Deep fry until golden. Remove and drain excess oil with paper towels.
  6. Repeat until you finish the batter. Serve warm with chocolate dip.



1 cup             heavy cream

1 cup             milk or semi sweet chocolate, cut into chunks

¼ tsp            cinnamon powder

pinch             cayenne powder

1 tbsp            softened butter


  1. In a pan, gently bring the heavy cream to a simmer.
  2. In a bowl, combine the chocolate chunks, cinnamon powder, cayenne powder and softened butter.
  3. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate mixture and allow this to sit and melt the chocolate.
  4. Give the mixture a quick whisk until it is nice and smooth.
  5. Serve with the warm bunuelos.


I hope you can try these recipes and share these delicious dishes with family and friends! -HANA

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