Most Asian noodles recipes I’ve come across in Western cookbooks feature different forms of “Asian Stir Fry” — egg noodles fried in sesame oil and chick peas, carrots, broccoli, and other fresh veggies. Pancit Canton is probably the most similar to the classic stir-fry: egg noodles made slightly wet and saucy, or dry — both dense and busy with a medley of ingredients. Other versions to this is the sotanghon, glass noodles, cooked with similar but finely chopped ingredients.
With our cultures fusing six centuries ago during the galleon trade, the Chinese has contributed wonderfully and significantly to our cuisine. Because of their indelible presence in our culture, the Filipino menu has embraced Asian noodles, commonly referred to as pancit, as an everyday Filipino dish with varying makes and flavors across 7,107 islands .I actually find Asian noodles harder to make than Italian pasta because the timing is quicker, and requires lighter handling. Anything cooked longer results in a mushy, broken mess.
I thought I’d surprise my husband with a vermicelli dish — a new addition in our own kitchen and something he’s been wanting me to make. Last night, and for the very first time ever, I recreated a meal I remember my grandaunt making in my grandparents’ house and is also something my mom makes.
I realized only recently that her dish is regional, specific to her Cavite province, and is a rare noodle dish even amongst my friends back home.
PANCIT PUTI RECIPE (White Noodles)
130 g rice vermicelli noodles (pre-soak for 10-15 mins)
6-7 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 chicken thighs, boiled and shredded
fresh chicken stock
patis (fish sauce)
scallions, finely chopped
calamansi (Philippine lime)
1. Sautee garlic until it turns a nice light and golden shade. Be careful it does not burn as this creates a rancid taste. Remove from oil and drain.
2. Grind the crispy garlic (I used a mortar and pestle) until it turns into coarse crumbs. Set aside.
3. In the same pan, throw in the shredded chicken. If your chicken is a bit bland, this might be a good stage to give it a bit of flavor and adjust with a tiny amount of salt and/or pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.
4. Still using the same pan, pour in the chicken stock and simmer. Dump the pre-soaked vermicelli noodles and remove once transparent and soft. I didn’t time it but it cooked way faster than boiling pasta, probably 3-5 minutes. Drain when cooked so it doesn’t get mushy. Set aside.
5. Return to the pan, season with fish sauce and sesame oil. Use the sesame oil sparingly — only to give it a hint of fragrance and not to give it a predominant flavor. When in doubt, add 1-2 small drops at a time. The over-all taste of this pancit is light but if your preference is something stronger and saltier, adjust gradually with more fish sauce.
Throw in the cooked chicken pieces, 1/3 of the toasted garlic and 1-2 tbsp of chopped scallions. Work gently (so noodles don’t break too much) but quickly to distribute the flavors evenly. If you want a stronger garlic taste, slowly add 1/2 tsp at a time as the toasted garlic will still be served as a side garnish. Finish with freshly ground pepper.
6. Remove from pan, transfer to a bowl. Serve with the fresh calamansi (I enjoy a good sprinkling for a nice, piquant flavor) and a side garnish of chopped scallions and the rest of the toasted garlic for optional toppings.
UPDATE: Here’s a tip from my friend chef Ann, whose family has been running a traditional Filipino restaurant for decades in the northern region of Pangasinan.
“You have to remember that bihon and sotanghon noodles need to be cooked right on with the cooking liquid. And do not try to break them. They come in little sheets. Put them on top of the stock you are cooking it with. Cover the pot. Open the lid. Sprinkle a little oil and wiggle it a bit and wait till the noodles have suck up all the liquid.”
Original recipe: bucaio.blogspot.com