Pancit is without a doubt my all-time favorite Filipino dish which is probably why it also happens to be the only Filipino dish I know how to make. Ha! I don’t make this dish often – between prepping the vegetables and cooking everything, it’s definitely time consuming. But, it really is all worth it at the end. This dish yields a lot, so it’s perfect for sharing at parties. It’s very impressive, too – especially when made with chicken, shrimp, sausage (or a combination of the three), and an assortment of vegetables. Also, it’s yummy. 🙂
The noodles were actually introduced to the Philippines by Chinese immigrants. So there are a lot of similarities to the noodles you’ll find in Chinese cuisine. There are about 50 gajillion variations of this dish, all using some sort of rice or wheat noodle or in this case, a combination of the two. The sauces and seasoning will vary between dishes and whoever cooks it, but it’s still pancit nonetheless.
My version of Pancit Bihon is a take on the version which was served at every Filipino birthday or New Year’s Eve party I attended during my childhood. I was well into my 20’s when I learned that the long noodles represented both a long life and good health in the coming year – which is exactly why they were always served at birthday parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations! No one ever told me! But now, you know. 😉
This version consists of primarily rice noodles and yellow wheat noodles. I really like the mix of the two which adds different textures and flavors to the dish. When you walk down the noodle section of a well stocked Asian market, it seems like every single country has multiple variations of these noodles. You’re looking for these two:
Rice noodles (sometimes called vermicelli rice noodles) which should definitely NOT be confused with vermicelli cellophane noodles. Cellophane noodles are made from mung bean starch and is almost transparent.
And yellow wheat noodles.
Usually, I only make this dish for large gatherings. So, I use chicken thighs (it’s just more forgiving, but you can certainly use breast), shrimp, and Chinese sausage. You can also make this dish with just one protein – chicken, shrimp, or even pork are all great options. The vegetables will also vary. It could be a simple as just scallions, cabbage (I prefer Napa), and carrots or you might also find: mushrooms, baby corn, snow peas, and the list goes on. I like a lot of color in my dishes so when it comes to vegetables, the more the merrier. 🙂 It really depends on what’s available and more importantly, your preferences.
I believe traditionally, pancit is seasoned with soy sauce and patis (a Filipino fish sauce). We never had fish sauce in our house growing up, so it’s not something I really like in Filipino dishes. For this dish, I use soy sauce and hoisin sauce. I think the sweetness of the hoisin sauce pairs really with the saltiness of the soy sauce.
In the Philippines, pancit is occasionally served with calamansi (it’s a citrus fruit which I think tastes like a mix of a really delicious lime and orange ) and that’s my favorite. I love what the citrus element adds to this dish. Sadly, it’s really only something I can have in the Philippines as I’ve never seen calamansi here. Other citrus fruits simply don’t compare.
Okay, enough with the rambling! This is how you make it:
Drizzle some vegetable oil in a wok (a large pan with deep sides will also do) and over medium/high heat, add some scallions, garlic, and grated ginger:
Add some black pepper and stir for a bit. After a few minutes, the scallion/garlic mixture should soften and become fragrant. Add the chicken, 2 tbsp of hoisin sauce, and 2 tbsp soy sauce. I like hoisin in this dish because it adds a little bit of sweetness. Cook until the chicken is done:
Remove the chicken, leaving as much of the broth as possible and add the shrimp. To avoid over cooking the shrimp, lay them directly onto the bottom of the wok (don’t double layer) and flip over once they’re pink to cook both sides. (Approximately 2 minutes on each side.)
Remove the shrimp, but leave the broth in the wok and add the vegetables (except for the cabbage). Cook until slightly softened and warmed thru (1-2min):
Using kitchen tongs (I have this set), remove all of the vegetables except the carrots which can continue cooking. Now this is where methods may vary. Some Filipinos pre-soak their noodles in water, cut them up so they’re easier to manage, and toss them back into the pan. Others add water to the pan and toss the dry noodles directly into the pan. I use the second method for two reasons:
- If long noodles are supposedly served on birthdays and New Years to represent a long, healthy, and prosperous life, aren’t we defeating the purpose by cutting them?
- Pre-soaking noodles => an extra bowl => more mess to clean up later
Okay, so now add the chicken broth, more scallions, and the remaining ginger, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce. Heat the broth thru and then, turn the heat on low so that your broth is barely at a simmer. Add the rice noodles:
After a couple minutes the middle section should be softened and you should be able to sort of smoosh the two ends together with your hands:
After another minute or two, take your tongs and start tossing the noodles around. A couple minutes later, your noodles should look a bit like this with just a little bit of broth at the bottom:
Now, add the yellow wheat noodles:
Use the tongs to fully incorporate the wheat noodles. If all the broth is absorbed and the noodles haven’t softened yet, you can add a little water (1/8-1/4c) to help soften the noodles. Just be careful to not add too much – you’ll be adding back more liquid when you add back everything else. Then add the cabbage:
Again, use your tongs to mix everything together. Once the cabbage has softened (a couple minutes), your dish should look like this:
Then add back the other vegetables and toss them all together:
Now, the chicken and shrimp:
Finally, the Chinese sausage which adds a pleasant bit of sweetness to this dish:
If calamansi was available state side, I’d probably squeeze a bit on top or serve it on the side. Since it’s not, I’ll settle for garnishing the dish with more scallions:
It really is a substantial dish:
But more importantly, yum.
- 16oz of rice noodles
- 8oz of yellow noodles
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced thin
- 1 package or 12oz of Chinese sausage (I used Kam Yen Jan – it’s a sweet sausage which I think helps balance all the salty/savory flavors), cooked to package directions and sliced thin
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (approximately 20-25 medium sized shrimp)
- 1 small napa cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
- 1c (approx 3 small carrots), sliced on a bias
- a bunch of scallions chopped, reserve 1/8c of top greens for garnish
- 1c mushrooms, sliced (I used shitaki, but any variety will do)
- 1c snow peas, fibrous strings removed – check this out if you have no clue what “fibrous strings” mean 😉
- 1 can of baby corn, drained
- 1 32oz container of no sodium chicken broth
- 1/4c plus 3tbsp soy sauce, divided
- 1/4c tbsp hoisen sauce, divided
- 2in ginger, peeled & grated
- 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
- pepper to taste
- Cook the Chinese sausage based on package instructions and slice – this can be done a day in advance
- Add vegetable oil to a wok or your largest skillet at medium-high heat
- Add garlic and all but a small handful of scallions, season with black pepper, and cook until fragrant
- Add chicken, season with black pepper, half of the ginger, and 2tbsp soy sauce and 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- Once chicken is cooked, remove from the work, but make sure the broth remain
- Add the shrimp and cook both sides until pink (about 2 minutes per side)
- Remove the shrimp from the wok, but make sure the broth remains
- Add all the vegetables (except cabbage) and cook until warmed thru, then remove
- Add 32oz of no sodium chicken broth, scallions, and remaining ginger, soy sauce, & hoisin sauce and bring to a simmer
- Turn the heat down to lowest setting
- Add the rice noodles
- After a couple minutes, the submerged noodles should soften and you should be able to collapse the rest of the noodles into the wok
- With kitchen tongs, start tossing the noodles together
- Once most of the broth is absorbed, add the yellow wheat noodles and toss around until the broth is absorbed and wheat noodles are softened (if the noodles are not yet softened and broth has been fully absorbed, slowly add more water until they are absorbed)
- Add the cabbage and with the kitchen tongs, toss and fully incorporate them into the dish
- Now, add back the cooked vegetables and toss again
- Now, add back the chicken, shrimp, and Chinese sausage and toss once more
- Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly
- Garnish with sliced scallions and calamansi wedges (if calamansi is available 😦 ).