Filipinos love to gather together, for baby showers, birthday parties or any occasion. If there's no occasion, we'll find something to celebrate just to commune and bond. Part of the bonding is eating!
If you ever find yourself at a Filipino party or casual get-together, we bet you'll discover at least one traditional dish: pancit. Noodles, which are a main staple of Asian cuisine, represent longevity and good health. In the Filipino culture it is a customary tradition to have pancit on birthdays and New Year's.
There is a "pancit" recipe in nearly all Asian cultures (yakisoba for Japanese; chow mein for Chinese; pad thai for Thais). Pancit originated in China and was brought to the Philippines by traders. The wheat noodles used in China were not available in the Philippines, so Filipinos used the resources that were available such as rice and mongo-bean starch.
The recipe evolved from basic noodles to the addition of seasonings such as soy sauce, which complements the taste of rice noodles. Chicken broth and vegetables such as onions, garlic, cabbage, carrots and celery are also added for flavor.
If you look online for recipes, you'll find no two recipes will be the same. Filipinos in some families don't write down the recipes but rather show their children or family members. And there are different pancit recipes depending on which region of the Philippines one is from. Some make it simply dry with chopped vegetables and meat, and then there are fancier recipes that include seafood, special meat or sausage and a wider variety of vegetables. Other pancit recipes have a soup-like consistency.
Pancit, for us, is a "pinoy," comfort food. We enjoy it with a squeeze of lemon and topped with green onions. You can find most of the ingredients here in Juneau and at Filipino grocery stores.
Pancit usually takes one to two steps and is very convenient to prepare. The dish is filling yet light on the wallet. A package of rice noodles is inexpensive and can feed four to five people. Or, if you don't have time to prepare it, pancit is available during lunch hour at a downtown grocery store.
1 (8 ounce) package thin rice noodles
½ pound skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into bite-size pieces (shrimp or pork may be substituted, or use all three)
2 carrots, shredded
½ medium head cabbage, shredded
1 small onion chopped in small pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 small cans of chicken broth
Ground black pepper and one chicken bullion cube to taste
½ cup soy sauce
1 lemon or lemon juice
Directions: In a skillet over medium heat, brown the garlic and add the onion. Cook for a minute and add chicken until meat is cooked. Season with soy sauce, bullion cube and pepper. Sauté the cabbage and carrots until tender. Remove from skillet and set aside.
In a large pot, add chicken broth and let it boil. Add the noodles and soak in the broth. Turn the heat down between medium and low. When the noodles are cooked, stir in the chicken and vegetables and cook for five more minutes. Sprinkle green onion on top when finished.
Squeeze a lemon wedge or some lemon juice on your pancit for additional flavor.
Lolita Cook can be reached at email@example.com, and Mary Manalansan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.