Pancit Canton – The Real Deal

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Filipino cooking is really cool.  Probably because of their history, there's a unique and wonderful blend of flavors that often encompass the globe.  And, a resourcefulness to make the best out of what they have at hand.

Pancit is a great example, and one of my favorite things.  In Tagalog, pancit means "noodles", and runs across a wide variety of dishes – the vast majority of which involve either wheat, or rice noodles.  Pancit Canton is a variety of wheat noodle very similar to the Chinese Chow Mein/Lo Mein noodle.  And, my personal favorite variety.

Pancit Canton

Pancit Canton


This is one of the food memories of my childhood – I lived in the Philippines for a couple of my formative years, and just hearing the word "pancit" this is what comes to mind.  I know the pancit bihon (rice noodles) are more common, but this is what I remember eating, particularly when visiting friends.  It's comfort food to the max.  And as a warning, this recipe will feed about six, but it could be cut down – I used more protein than was probably necessary, and I based everything on a large packet of noodles.

So, we'll start out with about a pound of chicken (I used breasts, but a mix would work), a pound of pork (found some really nice pork belly at the local Asian market) and a pound of shrimp.  Never, ever buy shrimp that hasn't been deveined by the way.  It's just not worth it.  Cube the chicken and pork up into nice bite-sized chunks, and leave the shrimp whole.  It's probably worth chopping up the veg at this point too, and setting it aside.

Next, crank up the heat on the wok and get it really hot with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Saute a few cloves of garlic and a medium onion (which admittedly I forgot this time :P)  Add the pork, and a few minutes later add the chicken.  When they're close to being done, add the shrimp.  They don't want to be cooked as long.

Now, things start to diverge from a traditional Chinese stir-fry.  Once that's all ready, add a cup of chicken stock, and the vegetables.  Bring those up to temperature, and let them simmer for a while – basically until the broccoli starts to turn that pretty 'cooked green'.  You'll also want to add a splash of patis at this point.  This is a Filipino 'fish sauce', and while I have no idea what it actually is, I imagine fish is involved, and it certainly brings the noms.

And, it's time to get serious.  Add another cup of chicken stock, put the pancit noodles on top – they'll be like a giant brick of Ramen at this point – and add about 1/2 cup of soy sauce, and a tablespoon or two more patis.  There's no cooking time to the noodles, but there's a trick – they absorb the chicken stock.  So, as the stock steams, the noodles start to soften.  I put away my wok ladle and grab my tongs at this point and start turning the noodles over, trying to incorporate the veggies and meats as I do.  It's a repetitive process that takes five or six minutes, and one can tell they're done because the noodles are soft and the liquid is gone from the wok.

Turn off the heat, make sure everything is mixed well, and start serving.  Simple, no?

Shopping list:

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Medium onion
  • 1lb chicken (or a large breast)
  • 1lb pork
  • 1lb shrimp – something smallish-to-medium.  Bite-sized
  • 1lb pancit canton noodles
  • patis (fish sauce) – probably an Asian market item
  • chicken stock
  • soy sauce
  • carrots
  • broccoli crowns
  • sugar snap or snow peas
  • black mushrooms (optional) – probably an Asian market item