Preparing a Filipino-themed Cheese Platter

Looking through social media posts and stories, I have seen a lot of cheese and charcuterie platters. It reminded me of a Christmas gathering with former dormmates almost a decade ago. I suggested to my sister that we could prepare a selection of cheeses and crackers for the potluck. Looking back, I wasn’t too sure when I started to be interested with cheese platters.

Cheese making is not a huge industry in the country more likely because of the climate and extreme humidity. Apart from the processed boxed and jarred types, the only known cheese that is produced here is kesong puti, a mild unaged cheese usually made from carabao‘s milk. Aside from that, Quezo de bola, which is based on Holland’s edam cheese, is popular during the holiday season.

This Christmas, I decided to create a platter that give off the nostalgic Pinoy vibes and flavors.

Of course, we centered the platter with the two cheeses – kesong puti and quezo de bola. Considering that one of the cheeses is associated with Christmas and the other is more of the classic local cheese, I thought of following the same pattern for the other components. For the meats, we opted for longganisa and Christmas ham. For the nuts, we went for pili nuts and chestnuts. And to complete the spread, we picked egg cracklets and pan de sal as bread, and added dried mango and pickled chilis, for additional flavor. I realized late that I should have experimented with toasted bibingka as one of the breads to follow the pattern. But alas, it is what it is.

With the restrictions brought by the ongoing pandemic, we considered different ways to procure the items to make sure we get everything and at the same time limiting the need to head out. First, we bought the queso de bola, chestnuts and pili nuts weeks ahead through various stores in an online shopping site. A few days before the Christmas eve, we dropped by the nearest supermarket to acquire the rest. However, we failed to find kesong puti. My sister tried her luck a Facebook-based shop which sells local dairy products. Fortunately, we made it to their last batch before the big day.

Minutes before dinner time, I arranged everything on a huge white plate.

Our Christmas dinner: roasted chicken, mashed potato and squash, mulled wine and the cheese platter.

Overall we consider it a success and might try it again on another occasion, of course, with a few changes. We can look into other local crackers or breads like apas or otap as well as different cured meats like tocino or tapa. Some fruits in season like mangoes and local strawberries could also be added for added freshness. We may also try out preserved fruit like tamarind, pineapple or guyabano.

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