Today, we are featuring an emblematic dish from the Pearl of the Orient Seas: pancit bihon guisado.
What is the origin of pancit?
In the Philippines, pancit (also spelled pansit) are noodles. Noodles were introduced to the country by Chinese traders and have since been widely adopted into the local Filipino food.
The name of pancit comes from the Hokkien words pian e sit which can be translated to “something conveniently cooked” or by extension “fast food”.
During the Spanish Colonial Era, these indigenous noodle dishes were really the Philippines’ first “takeout food”. The Chinese food hawkers who sold pancit (panciteros), offered the women who worked at the cigar factories and had little time for cooking an easy way to feed them and their family. As the demand for these prepared meals increased, the food hawkers established permanent roadside eateries and these became the country’s first covered restaurants now called panciterias.
What is pancit bihon guisado?
Pancit bihon guisado is a Filipino noodle dish that uses bihon or thin rice noodles. The name of this recipe comes from the root Tagalo word guisa which means “sautéing”.
How to cook pancit bihon
Filipino pancit guisado is a very versatile dish for which every chef will have a different recipe. It is however always prepared with very thin rice vermicelli that are fried with soy sauce, sometimes with fish sauce (patis), and a combination of meat including Chinese sausage, seafood and chopped vegetables that is served with citrus such as calamansi.
What are the various types of pancit?
Pinoy cuisine now offers a very large selection of pancit dishes beyond pancit guisado. Here are just a few of the most popular ones:
Pancit Canton is a dish prepared with wheat noodles that are stir-fried with soy sauce and ginger, and then tossed with a large number of ingredients that include squid, shrimp, fish balls, sliced pork, as well as vegetables and quail eggs. Even though this dish is very similar to lo mein or chow mein, it has absolutely no connection with Canton!
Sotanghon guisado is very similar to pancit bihon guisado, but it is instead prepared with translucent sotanghon, which are mung bean or cellophane noodles.
Pancit luglog aka pancit Malabon, uses thick rice noodles that are mixed with an orange sauce that is colored with annato like my recently prepared kare kare. Luglog means “to dunk in water” as the thick noodles are soaked in water before being prepared. This rich dish includes shrimp, squid, as well as oysters that abound in the fishing town of Malabon.
Pancit batil patong is the official pancit dish of Tuguegarao, a city in the Cagayan region, northeast of Luzon island. The name of this dish comes from the two different ways that eggs are used in this noodle recipe. Miki noodles (egg wheat noodles) are stir-fried with soy, ground carabao beef (local water buffalo), broth and mung bean sprouts, before being topped with a fried egg called patong. The noodle dish is also served with a bowl of whisked egg-drop and carabao beef broth soup called batil, as well as a side dish of chopped onions, calamansi, chili peppers, and soy sauce.
Pancit habhab or pancit Lucban. Habhab is a term that the people of Lucban (in the Quezon province) use to refer to the act of placing their noodle dish on a banana leaf, then using the banana leaf as a utensil to move the meal directly into the mouth. This pancit dish is made with miki noodles that are sautéed with pork, liver, shrimp, vegetables and a little cane vinegar.
Pancit lomi is a noodle dish that originated in Lipa, a city in the southern Luzon province of Batangas. The recipe was created by restaurateur To Kim Eng in 1968. It consists of thick egg noodles in a thick broth that are prepared with pork liver, fish balls, kikiam (a type of sausage), and quail eggs.
Pancit lang-lang, originally from Imus in the province of Cavite, close to Manila, are prepared with pork meatballs in a chicken noodle soup.
Pancit kilawi is a recipe from Rosario, also in the Cavite province. This dish uses shredded unripe papaya instead of pancit noodles and is prepared with vinegar and fish. The Filipino answer to gluten-free zoodles (zucchini noodles) I guess?
Pancit Molo is a pork dumpling soup which originated in the Molo district in Iloilo City (southeastern tip of Panay island). It is composed of ground pork wrapped in wonton wrapper, shredded chicken meat, as well as shrimps. This piping-hot soup is served in bowls that are garnished with scallions and fried garlic bits.
As you can attest, there are a lot of different ways to enjoy noodles in the Philippines. And even for specific pancit dishes, there doesn’t seem to be one recipe but Filipinos seem to have used noodles as a canvas to invent their own creations.
At home, this pancit bihon guisado was a total success. The kids ate the noodle dish for three meals in a row, and asked for more.
The convenience and simplicity of these noodle dishes is definitely the key to the popularity of pancit in the Philippines. You can stick to this pancit bihon recipe of adapt it to make your own.
Go wild and enjoy!
- 8 oz. rice sticks
- 1 lb chicken breast
- ½ lb shrimps
- 2 chinese sausages , sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces
- 5 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 onion , sliced
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 carrots , thinly sliced diagonally
- ½ lb green beans , sliced diagonally into 2 inch pieces
- ¼ lb snow peas
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cups broth (from boiling the chicken)
- ½ bunch cilantro , chopped
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- Calamansi or lime
Boil the chicken in water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Reserve the broth.
Soak the rice sticks in a large amount of water.
Cut the chicken into small strips.
In a large pan at medium heat, sauté the garlic in the vegetable oil. Add the onions, chicken, shrimps and chinese sausage. Add the fish sauce and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the green beans, carrots, snow peas and cilantro. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Set aside.
In a separate pan or wok, add the soy sauce and broth and bring to a boil. Add the rice sticks and cook for 5 minutes. Add the meat and vegetables. Toss and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with calamansi (or lime).