If there’s something I look forward to every Christmas, it would have to be the Christmas ham. And when I think of ham, it would have to be a ham that was introduced by my Mom, a couple of years ago, the Excelente ham. Before I tasted this ham, I was used to the shiny, saucy ham sold in groceries, some sticky sweet and others blatantly salty. Then one December morning a few years back at breakfast, I absentmindedly speared a piece of ham in the dining table, thinking it was just another ham, either sweet only on top or super salty. But no, not this one, this was way different.
This one had just the right amount of saltiness rubbed or marinated in its meat. You can slice it thinly and eat it straight up without having to cook it. Of course, it comes with its own syrup in case you want to heat it up and let the meat absorb a sweeter taste.
Through the years, Excelente has maintained its promise of quality Chinese ham, holding on to their traditional recipe of curing their ham. And being true to this recipe has made it one of the most sought after ham during Christmas. I can't say I'm surprised because just biting into that little strip of ham fat after stewing it in honeyed syrup easily transports you to a place of sweet, oozing succulence leaving you wanting for more. And each time that happens I have to stop myself from maniacally slicing more fatty slices and hoarding it for myself, Yay! Sometimes, it just tastes so sinful.
Excelente ham is sold in a street in Quiapo. I had been there once and the Christmas rush can be quite toxic. And this Christmas, just when I thought I had to settle with a mediocre grocery ham, my Dad surprised me with a small box of Excelente. Yes! Excelente ham for Christmas! Wow, pure joy. And that night, my husband didn’t waste time carving himself portions for his sandwich. Our helper asked me in the morning,”Ate, kinain ni Kuya na di luto (He ate it raw)” I smiled and told her it was cooked ham.
My husband had been gingerly slicing it to the thinnest bit just to have it available till Christmas. So when one of the parents I knew in preschool told me that I could order Excelente ham from her, I almost hugged her. Yes, now we may have Excelente till the New Year. Mind you, both ham sizes I got were small. So hopefully...
But so far, due to my husband’s diligent and almost precise carving technique, I stll have one-fourth portion of Excelente ham my Dad gave me and a small, untouched chunk of Excelente ham from the preschool Mom. Funny thing, my husband recently brought home a big leg of Chinese ham, a gift he can readily dig into but he doesn’t, he tells me he’s saving it for Christmas when his relatives arrive for Noche Buena. They will feast on that big leg of ham not on his ham. He keeps his Excelente hams in its own sacred space in the ref and whenever he comes home from work, tired and ravenous, he often slices a sliver for himself…Poor guy, maybe I should have bought a bigger slab of Excelente ham…maybe next Christmas..