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Dec 3, 2005 12:58 PM

Hercules - Simbang Gabi - Philipino Christmas Breakfast 12/16-12/24

  • r

Just read about this and after failing to pre-announce the Nigerian yam fest, I thought I'd give a heads up on this.

From what I've read, in the Philipines, there is a morning mass after which feast on the food provided by street vendors surrounding the church.

At St. Patricks, in Hercules, there is a free breakfast which is open to all, parishiners and non parishiners. There will be traditional foods like puto, kutsinta, bibinka, suman, sopas and arrozcaldo. Don't know if salabat, a ginger tea will be available, but I'm guessing yes. There will also be American breakfast foods as well like scrambled eggs, sausages, bagels and cream cheese, fresh fruits, muffins, dinner rolls, croissants donuts and more.

St. John's in El Cerrito is also having Simbang Gabi in the evening, but no menu was mentioned. Actually they were asking for people to sign up last week.

Back to St. Patricks, Hercules has a VERY large Filipino population, so I'm guessing the food is going to be very authentic out of the kitchens of the ladies of the parish.

Heres a link about the foods:

Another about how it happens traditionally in the Phillipines:


The last link below has the best history and overall view of the celebration.


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  1. Great post! If you're not a fellow Filipino, my compliments on your research and spelling of the Filipino food names.

    Just one quibble with the link: the misa de gallo is the dawn mass, a 9-day series, after which traditional treats like puto bungbong and bibingka galapong are served, along with the other goodies you listed. Simbang gabi, literally "night mass" is the Christmas Eve mass that is supposed to be held at midnight (but is now held as early as 8pm), after which the family repairs to a supper of cholesterol-laced delicacies like enseimada, hams, cheese, and whatever else seems suitably festive.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pia

      Ooops. I hope I'm not picking too many nits here, but I was so engrossed with my memories of post-misa de gallo breakfasts that I forgot to mention that something "of, or pertaining to, the Philippines" is "Filipino" (the original Hispanic name of the archipelago was las Islas Filipinas) or "Philippine", if you want to use the Anglicized version of "Filipino". (This may help if you want to look up related topics.)

      Now I'm going to have to plan on making that arroz caldo for breakfast. . .

      1. re: Pia

        Reminds me of a Chinese place around Vallejo that had a huge banner advertising their "American and Philippino Breakfast" (I was intrigued enough by the misspelling to try it out, but I wasn't impressed by the meal.)

        Seriously, thanks for another informative post, rw - it's a (delicious) reminder of why it's so darn hard to keep off the weight during holidays :)

        1. re: JojoA

          That's why I love living in the Bay Area. You can travel the world and not leave the country. Nice that so many of these festivals have food involved.

          Zeum is having the Phillipine Parol Lantern Festival.


          Thanks for the additional information. Also, in the back of my mind I kept thinking that I didn't spell Filipino correctly and re-read my post without checking the title.

          Enjoy the arroz caldo.


        2. re: Pia

          heh...actually, even "Filipino" is anglicized itself, to a certain extent(although perfectly acceptable).
          But to get down with your roots, break out "Pilipino" (no 'h') every once in a while for fun!!

      2. Why this is called ‘Misa de Gallo’ … mass of the rooster (dawn mass) … I don’t know. It is so early that I left the house before the rooster next door was awake and was back home at six am while it was still dark and the rooster was still sleeping … although, come to think of it, I haven’t heard from him since Thanksgiving.

        The best I could do is Google some of the food. I’m not good at asking questions this early in the morning with a hungry hoard waiting in line behind me.

        There were wonderful, plump garlicky sausages, scrambled eggs, plain rice and hard boiled eggs, some Filipino sweet breads, lots of American cakes, cookies, breads, and bagels. Wish I could have asked where those sausages came from since they were the best Filipino sausages I've ever tried.

        I couldn’t find any specific info on this, but there were two soups and one sweet porridge.

        The soups were both chicken broth based with bihon, those rice noodles used in pancit. However, these were soups, not pancit as I know it. One had pieces of chicken and dried mushrooms, too good. The other had chicken meat and chicken livers, also good. The porridge was like a sweet jook. Good job, ladies.

        There was also what I would call fish chicharon … crispy fried fish skins. The couple in front of me were really hyped by these and ooohhhed when they saw these. Actually, they were quite good, even at 5:30 in the morning a time that I would not normally contemplate eating fried fish skins.

        There were bready little purple balls covered with coconut that I assume after searching the web were puto, steamed cakes made with sticky rice flour and coconut milk.

        Picture of puto

        There was excellent sticky rice flavored with fresh ginger and wrapped in banana leaves that I am guessing was suman

        Recipe and picture of suman

        Trying to look up these foods, I found this great link about Filipino food with some information that was new to me.

        Surprisingly at 5 am, it was SRO in the packed church. Also, wasn’t prepared for the mass to be in tagalog … well, most of it. The priest was not Filipino and was reading the basic prayers in tagalog, but the sermon was in English.

        One of the most profound things he preached was “the reason you all showed up here this morning was not for the food …”

        Of course not. What kind of crazed low life slime would do that? I was there for the cultural experience as well. This was the first I’ve ever heard of this celebration and wanted to see what it was about. I suppose I don’t get any God brownie points for dragging my self to a 5 am mass given that motive.

        No collection at mass. One sweet little lady asked the priest if he forgot. Sort of like the kid who asks if the teacher forgot the homework. Anyway, totally free.

        Food will be different every morning as different groups are providing it.

        If you are not an early bird, there is an evening mass with meal at St. John’s in El Cerrito. See link below.


        3 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          First off, congrats on getting up that early! Even I don't get up that early during the workweek LOL.

          I'm guessing those sausages were longanisa. They're verrry yummy with garlicky fried rice and scrambled eggs (can't indulge in that too often these days, tho')

          I think the soup you describe was sotanghon soup (my dad's retired armed forces group recently had a holiday luncheon with that as the soup du jour.) Regular sotanghon is basically the same ingredients without the broth, but it still has much more of a "soggy" texture than its cousin pancit. The jook-like porridge was probably arrozcaldo.

          Lovely picture of the puto, which is probably flavored by ube (purple yam). The orange gelatinous things next to it are kutsinta, which is also enojoyed topped with coconut (mmmm...kutsinta.)

          Thanks again for a great report!

          1. re: JojoA

            Thanks so much. Yeah, that was it, sotanghon soup. Here's a link to a web picture which makes me hungry right now for that chicken mushroom version. Very nice on a cold morning.


            I'm not sure about the porridge being arrozcaldo. That was one of the dishes listed in the church bulletin as possibly being served.

            When I searched on that this morning, it didn't seem anything like the savory recipes I found. In fact, the woman handing it out said it was sweet. It was, but not not overly so. It had a color tinge to it too, maybe red or purplish ... light.

            Maybe someone's special recipe? This woman was really trying to sell this one dish but more people were going for the soup.

            Thanks again for shedding a little more light on this.


            1. re: rworange

              The arrozcaldo I'm familiar with isn't really sweet, so that might not be what you had.

              However, I do vaguely remember coming across something similar to what you describe (visually, at least) at some get-togethers in the past. I suppose it could be a specialized arrozcaldo recipe or something completely different.