In the New York Times article, “Filipino Food finds a Place in the American Mainstream,” Ligaya Mishan provided an appetizing introduction to Filipino cuisine and its rich cultural heritage. She delved into the flavors and natural resources that inhabit the core of Filipino cooking. I liked her borrowed quote from the venerable Doreen Fernandez describing the mystique in Filipino cooks as a “galaxy of flavor adjusters.” This adjusting translates to the myriad interpretations and renderings of the Adobo, and for this blog entry — Pancit, a noodle delicacy that graces every birthday celebrant’s table.
I made this Pancit at the last minute as my best friend Lorraine didn’t have enough time to cook it (had other preparations needed for the birthday party). I have to say, her version of Pancit is as delicious as mine (if not more, hahaha). I usually prefer making Pancit with jumbo prawns, but since the birthday guy (Happy 40th!) has a shellfish aversion, I decided to make the chicken version.
Patis, native kinds of vinegar, soy sauce, coconut milk and the defining umami richness of bagoong — are must-haves in a Filipino pantry. The cornucopia of flavors to the Filipino adjusters. Many include some of these flavorings to the Pancit, I’ve been known to add some adobo sauce if handy (about 1/4 cup) when I cook the Pancit. For this recipe, I didn’t have annatto seeds, so I used paprika and saffron as substitutes.
The Pancit arrived in the Philippines through the Chinese merchants who brought noodles and recipes often guarded with hesitancy when sharing with the Filipino help cooking in their homes. Pancit is Hokkien for “convenient food.” Filipinos with Chinese heritage still prepare Pancit with Chinese sausage, wood ear mushroom, celery, bok choy, mung bean sprouts, and bell peppers to name a few additions. Lorraine likes to add quail eggs and coarse chicharones adding another layer of texture to the recipe.
In the Philippines, Pancit is also a favorite street food and often named after the places where the variation has gained a popular following. One can often buy them from well-known vendors in areas like Malabon, Quiapo (Canton), Illongo to name a few. I remember opening the Pancit in plastic bags wrapped with several layers of newspaper guaranteeing its warmth and freshness. This is considered a pasalubong (gift or treat) sure to delight its recipient.
The NYT has yet to publish a recipe for Pancit, I hope this will ignite an interest in the Cooking section to deliver on paving the road of Filipino cuisine to the American mainstream.
My Adjusted and evolving Pancit recipe:
For the broth:
1 large chicken breast
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
3 Celery stalks with leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon crushed peppercorns
2 tablespoon dark soy sauce (add at the end)
For the Pancit:
1 1/2 packet of Pancit Bihon (16 oz/packet) or Chinese Rice Noodle
1/2 head of cabbage
2 medium size carrots
1/2 lbs. string beans
4 stalks of celery with leaves (preferably Chinese)
3-4 tablespoon of soy sauce
2-3 tablespoon of Patis
1 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
2 pinches of Saffron flowers
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium size shallot
2 tablespoons of julienned ginger
2 spring onion
12 Hard boiled Quail Eggs for garnish cut in half (optional)
1/3 lbs Chinese Barbeque Pork cut in small pieces (optional)2 lemonsPREPARATION:
- In a stock pot, gently simmer chicken breast, celery stalks in about 2-3 quarts of water and sesame oil, then season with salt and crushed peppercorns. About 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the chicken as it will be dry, cut into strips or small cubes and return to broth.
- Julienne the celery stalks, carrots, string beans and cabbage and arrange them separately onto a plate.
- Heat a wok or a casserole pan lightly brown two cloves of minced garlic in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Then add the ginger and stir for about a minute, then add the carrots, celery, and cabbage. Sauté for about 5 minutes then add the string beans. Sauté for an additional minute.
- Drain the chicken and stir in the wok. Sauté for about 2 minutes. Remove sautéed ingredients from the wok and set aside in a bowl.
- Gently heat the broth and add the soy sauce (it should still be warm). Place the rice noodles into a large flat bowl and pour the hot broth over the noodles. With a wooden spatula, stir the noodle as they begin to soften. Season with the saffron and paprika. Do not leave for a long time as noodles will become gelatinous — just a bit more than al dente. Drain the noodles
- In high heat, add two tablespoons of vegetable oil in the wok and stir fry the vegetable and chicken mixture for about a minute. Save some of the mixture as garnish over the top of the dish later.
- Add the noodles and bbq pork (optional) and sauté with the noodles. Season according to taste with the Patis, soy sauce, and spring onion while sautéing. Remove from wok once noodles are done into your serving dish. Garnish with halved quail eggs and slices of lemon on top.