Celebrating Puerto Rican Parrandas with a Tembleque Recipe

by Melanie Edwards on December 18, 2013 · 0 comments

in Puerto Rico,Recipes

Tembleque Recipe

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Navidad in Puerto Rico is a special time known for family togetherness, good food, wonderful music, and lots of celebration. A particular tradition the island is especially known for is that of the Puerto Rican parranda. Though much of Latin America celebrates Las Posadas during Christmas, in Puerto Rico we have parrandas, similar in fashion to Las Posadas in that we gather in groups and visit from house to house, but different to Las Posadas in how they are celebrated. Here’s how a Puerto Rican parranda usually goes.

How to Have a Puerto Rican Parranda

  1. Gather a small group of friends and traditional Puerto Rican instruments (or similar if traditional instruments are unavailable – maracas, tambourines, guitars, bongos, and a cuatro, if you really want to go traditional).
  2. Visit a friend’s house – usually late at night, after they go to sleep – and quietly gather near their front door.
  3. After someone gives a signal, begin playing and singing a traditional aguinaldo (folkloric Christmas songs, much like Christmas carols) to wake up the home owners. This is called an asalto! (Asalto literally translates to assault, but in this case more so means surprise.)
  4. The home owners will wake up, open the doors, welcome everyone inside, and the party begins. Refreshments and food will be served by the home owners, while the music continues, followed by dancing and lots of celebrating.
  5. After about an hour of a parranda at the first house, everyone (including the home owners) leaves and heads to another house for another asalto.
  6. This cycle of parrandas continues from house to house throughout the night until dawn, ending with a warm meal at the final house.

What a party, right? While I’ve never participated in an all-night parranda, I have had the pleasure of getting together many times for Noche Buena and Navidad (Christmas Eve and Christmas) with friends and family to sing aguinaldos, play instruments, dance, and have a great time celebrating the season. Growing up, I always knew when it was Christmas time as my papi would pull out his CDs of Puerto Rican Christmas music (or perhaps it was records or tapes depending on which decade it was) and the house would be filled with typical jibaro-style songs. If you want a sampling of such music to share with your family and perhaps have a mock Puerto Rican parranda in your home to help your children learn about the tradition, amazingly you can find this CD on Walmart.com full of Puerto Rican Christmas music! Depending on where you live, you may even find it in-store too!

As I talked with my children this year about the Puerto Rican parranda tradition, I decided to make one of my favorite desserts that I hadn’t yet shared with them – tembleque! While a warm meal is served at the final house of a parranda, dessert is also usually served and dessert can mean any number of things depending on the household. During Christmas time, you may find arroz con dulce, flan, or tembleque being served in Puerto Rican households and during parrandas. For our own in-home Puerto Rican parranda celebration, we learned what tembleque is all about – let me share with you this simple tembleque recipe that I’m sure you’ll love too, with ingredients you can find at your local Walmart!

Tembleque Recipe (Puerto Rican Coconut Pudding)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • coconut milk, 2 13.5 oz cans
  • cream of coconut, use from 1/2-1 15 oz can (to your liking and taste)
  • ground cinnamon, to taste

Tembleque Recipe Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix corn starch, sugar, and salt.
  2. Slowly mix in coconut milk, using a whisk to stir as you add both cans.
  3. Add cream of coconut, again using a whisk to stir in as you add. You can use only half of the can or add in the whole can. The more you use, the sweeter your tembleque will be.
  4. Pour mixture into a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, constantly stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat and continue stirring until mixture thickens. It’s important that you constantly stir, otherwise it will stick to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a deep round baking pan (a pie pan will work) that you have pre-moistened with water, similar in fashion to how you grease a pan before baking a cake.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and let tembleque set before inverting onto a flat plate or serving dish.
  7. Sprinkle cinnamon over your tembleque before serving and enjoy!

I hope you love tembleque as much as my kids and I do! We had a fun time learning more about Puerto Rican parrandas and eating our tembleque as we danced, sang, and celebrated – that’s what Navidad is about after all!

Tembleque Recipe

What holiday tradition do you treasure the most?

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All photos © Melanie Edwards/modernmami™

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