Rellenong Manok—The Phillipines’ Elaborately Stuffed Christmas Chicken

This season isn’t the first time Gordon has deboned an entire chicken for the sake of stuffing it with other things and roasting it (see Whole-Roasted Chicken Cordon Bleu). But this Filipino dish takes stuffing to a whole new level.

On the Fourth Day of Imported Christmas, we turned a chicken and a whole bunch of ingredients we’d never put together before into rellenong manok.

My first introduction to the ingredients for rellenong manok was a photo of our counter Gordon sent me after seeing the recipe online and immediately going out to buy everything he needed to make it. Specific ingredients vary between recipes, but common options include chorizo, ham, cheese, carrots, olives, raisins, pickle relish and hardboiled eggs.

According to NPR, these ingredients actually serve as a history lesson on cultural influences and colonization. The Phillipines were a Spanish colony for 400 years, so it makes sense that the dish includes chorizo, ham, other preserved meats, and olives. The presence of raisins and sometimes nuts comes from the centuries-old Arab influence in Spain. When Spain ceded the Phillipines to the United States in 1898, American brands of canned meats started cropping up in recipes. The resulting dish, no matter the influences, is distinctly Filipino.

We quickly realized why this dish is saved for a special occasion. Deboning a chicken while leaving the skin intact, boiling eggs, making the filling, stuffing the bird back to the shape it was in before deboning, finding the perfect egg placement, sewing the bird closed, marinating, and roasting to a golden brown is definitely a labor of love.

We really enjoyed the final dish. The relish didn’t really pack a punch, and while the raisins were surprising, they were also quite Christmasy. It’s definitely worth making at least once, just be sure to invite friends over to share.

Interested in learning about more international Christmas traditions? Follow our 12 Days of Imported Christmas:

Twelve Days of Imported Christmas

  1. The First Day: Chichilaki—Georgia’s Shaved Christmas Tree
  2. The Second Day: Lotería de Navidad—Spain’s Communal Christmas Lottery
  3. The Third Day: Stargazy Pie—Cornwall’s Town-Saving Fish Dish
  4. The Fourth Day: Rellenong Manok—The Phillipines’ Elaborately Stuffed Christmas Chicken
  5. The Fifth Day: Himmeli—Finland’s Geometric Straw Ornaments
  6. The Sixth Day: Figgy Pudding—England’s Fiery Festive Centerpiece
  7. The Seventh Day: Glückspilz—Germany’s Lucky Mushroom
  8. The Eighth Day: Pumpple Cake—Philadelphia’s Quadruple Dessert
  9. The Ninth Day: Porchetta—Italy’s Decadent Pork Centerpiece
  10. The Tenth Day: Julkalender—Sweden’s Serialized TV Christmas Countdown
  11. The Eleventh Day: Peppermint Pig—Saratoga’s Shattered Sow
  12. The Twelfth Day: Ursul—Romania’s Bear Dance Festival

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