Though pancit is as Filipino as Boracay, John Lloyd Cruz and EDSA traffic, it wasn’t born in the Philippines. The greatest gift of the Chinese to mankind arrived on Philippine shores as early as the 12th century via lunchboxes of Chinese merchants who used to trade with Tondo, Manila residents. It became popular among locals because it was easy to cook, versatile, and paired well with other local dishes. Pancit can be the main meal, a side dish, the viand itself, or a carbs-on-carbs party between bread (genius!) as merienda. It can be eaten at any time of the day. It can be eaten as simply as seasoned noodles on a plate or as a fancy, complex dish with scores of ingredients.
From its foreign origins, pancit has become truly Filipino as we’ve incorporated our many regional flairs and variation. Now, almost every community in the country has a trademark pancit. They feature local ingredients, tastes, and techniques in cooking. They translate their own story and experiences into the simple noodle dish. Our extremely diverse culture made pancit a true Filipino dish and an integral foundation of our cuisine. @PancitLove is my humble attempt to capture all of those. A diary of my love for pancit and hopefully through this platform I can share more about pancit, the panciteria, and the stories behind them.
The influx of workers from the provinces, the growing palate of the burgeoning middle class, and the ease of access to information and transportation are fueling a growing demand for regional food here in Metro Manila, and pancit is at the forefront. Now, people don’t have to go to their provinces just to have a taste of home. Here are some of the best regional pancit dishes that you can have here in Metro Manila — you just have to endure the metro’s hellacious traffic.
PANCIT BATIL PATUNG
To say that Tuguegaraoeños are obsessed with Batil Patung is a gross understatement. There is a panciteria at practically every street corner of the city. Eating batil patung is like taking a shower to them, they have it at least thrice a week during rainy days and as much as they want in a day during summer. It is comfort food at its finest.
Batil Patung is a miki, or fresh egg noodle, dish that gets its name from the manner eggs are incorporated into the noodles. The word batil came from the Spanish word batir (to beat), for the beaten egg in the ‘sauce’ that is served together with the dish, while patong, or patung in Ibanag, is to put on top of, for the poached egg that is placed on top of the pancit. The springy miki cooked in carabao bone broth is then topped with sautéed ground carabao meat, pork liver, crunchy mixed vegetables, and the occasional chorizo and carajay, a type of super crispy pork belly. Tuguegaraoans have always been in love with pancit specifically miki guisado, but in the 70’s, Teyo’s Panciteria invented the pancit batil patung that we know today.
CAGAYAN’S BEST Batil Patung capitalized on the hunger pangs of Tuguegaraoans in the metro in 2011, and while few can claim that they are the best, this small panciteria in Sampaloc, can stake that claim with a straight face.
Here’s a short video of our visit to CAGAYAN’S BEST:
SDRC Building, 1318 Gerardo Tuazon St, Sampaloc, Manila, Philippines
In the late 1880’s, a Chinese merchant named Sia Liang or “Dianga” fell in love with a Filipina and decided that he had found a home in Cabagan, Isabela. Together with his wife, they started a small noodle factory that made his miki recipe along with a panciteria that served his miki guisado. Little did he know that he had started what would become a rich pancit culture in northeast Luzon. Dianga’s original pancit Cabagan is made only from fresh miki sa lihiya (lye water), dried shrimp, bagoong alamang, soy sauce, and pork broth. It is served with sauce made from the broth the noodles were cooked in. Later versions of the dish added vegetables, igado (an Ilocano pork liver stew), carajay and hard-boiled quail eggs, resulting in today’s signature, extravagant presentation of the dish- a great symphony of flavors and textures bathed in a rich sauce.
The best pancit Cabagan in the metro is found in an 18-year-old panciteria in Blumentritt, Manila. You won’t miss it as they have this huge red sign that just says the dish, a feat of hubris worthy of their product. PANCIT CABANGAN SA BLUMENTRITT gets their noodles from Cabagan, Isabela fresh and cooks around 30 kilos of it every single day. The place is packed from lunch until dinner, I advise people to go there before or after those times, but if you are a veteran at lining up for milk tea and ramen places, you’ll be fine.
Here’s a short video of our visit to PANCIT CABAGAN SA BLUMENTRITT:
PANCIT CABAGAN SA BLUMENTRITT
875 Blumentritt Road, Sampaloc, Manila, Philippines
My only real connection to Lucban, Quezon is its simple, handy but very delicious pancit habhab. Pancit habhab is made from miki which also goes by the name pancit Lucban. What makes this special is that wheat noodles are smoked and dried, giving it a smoky flavor to the dish, and lends it structural integrity so it retains its springiness and chewiness even when exposed to heat for extended periods of time. Pancit habhab is sold in almost every street corner of Lucban. It is an ideal fast food cooked in pork lard, with bits of sayote and served in a piece of banana leaf. It is doused with vinegar and then vigorously slurped down, or “habhab”-ed.
BUDDY’S RESTAURANT was a Quezon food institution long before they expanded operations to the metro and with their foray to the capital, they took pancit Lucban to a whole new level. Their version is made with miki sautéed with copious amounts of vegetables and lechon kawali. The dish is then topped with raw white onions for added crunch and flavor. It is served with vinegar like how they do it in Lucban. Sorry, no calamansi, folks. Stay classy.
Buddy’s started as burger place in Lucban but its popularity grew when it embraced its Lucbanon and Quezonian roots and added Quezonian fare to their menu, carried by their flagship pancit.
Pancit Chami is a saucy dish of stir-fried thick miki noodles, meat, and vegetables. It’s also known as miki or lomi guisado in some areas of the country. The dish’s name was derived from Chinese words cha (chaocal) which means stir-fry and mi (miantiao) which means noodles, but in Lucena, it is called by its whole name, pancit chami tamis-anghang to highlight Lucena City’s sweet and spicy version.
Every year, Lucena City celebrates its love of their pancit by holding a Chami festival since 2006 as an additional attraction to the Pasayahan Festival held in May. The highlight of the festival is the Chami cooking contest where panciteros from all over the city compete for bragging rights of making the best pancit chami tamis-anghang in all of Lucena and practically, the nation.
People can enjoy Lucena’s pancit chami at BUDDY’S RESTAURANT branches around Metro Manila. Buddy’s significantly toned down the heat of their chami so both adult and kids can enjoy its savory sweet goodness. You could just ask the wait staff for a bowl of labuyo.
My first exposure to Ilonggo cuisine was when my dad decided to bring the family to CHICKEN BACOLOD in Katipunan for Sunday lunch. Inasal hadn’t blown up yet then so the cuisine was novel to me. There were two items that stood out, pancit batchoy and pancit efuven guisado. Efuven is a staple in Ilonggo cuisine. It is thin, flat noodles made from high grade wheat flour. It looks like a linguine, has the texture of ramen noodles and tastes like canton. It is then cooked like chopsuey with noodles. The thick sauce with all its flavours cling to the pancit efuven like an obsessed ex-girlfriend.
The information I got regarding the origins of pancit efuven is incomplete at best. I can only rely on the one I got from Nancy Lumen’s article Pancit Republic published on the Phlippine Center for Investigative Journalism journal. Lumen notes that efuven is derived from the name of the pancit maker. Efuven is weird name right? Maybe it’s a portmanteau of the kind of noodles and the name of the maker, e-fu is a kind of noodles, right? Maybe the name of the maker has a ‘ven’ in it, like Ven Diesel. Sounds about right.
Pancit pusit was originally pancit choca ensu tinta, Chavacano for pancit in squid and ink, and is one of the most unique pancit dishes. The love-child of Caviteno, Basque-Mexican, and Chinese influences, made possible by the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, it was developed in Cavite during the Spanish occupation. It is a pancit guisado dish made with sotanghon and squid or cuttlefish ink adobo. It is garnished with kinchay, green onions, toasted garlic, and labuyo.
It is ironic that traditional Caviteno cuisine, and Tagalog cuisine in general, is hard to find in Manila considering its proximity. Fortunately, restaurants like CASA DAZA in UP Town Center ensure Tagalog cuisine is represented in Metro Manila’s burgeoning food scene. The restaurant serves an excellent version of pancit pusit that they call Pancit Midnight. The blackness of the sotanghon is the midnight sky and the pusit and other toppings are the stars and constellation. Can you imagine it already?
If you are an unbelievably bright student of Philippine History, like me, ehem! you would know that Pancit Lang-lang is indelibly written in history through the food symbolism-filled chapter 25 of El Filibusterismo. The ingredients and presentation of the dish is thoroughly described that you can probably cook it based from the novel. It is not surprising because pancit lang-lang of Imus, Cavite, happens to be the favorite pancit of Gat Jose Rizal. In fact, he makes a detour to Imus when on a trip to and from Manila just to have a bowl of his favorite pancit. Pancit lang-lang is traditionally made with sotanghon, shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, and assorted vegetables. It is served like a soup and topped with thinly sliced omelette, and toasted garlic and onions.
CASA DAZA’s version of pancit lang-lang is not like that. Theirs is a combination of sotanghon, fresh miki and bihon as if flaunting their noodle expertise. The noodles are cooked with chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, assorted vegetables and served guisado style. The aroma of the dish slaps you in the face with joy and happiness that even though Jose Rizal became the greatest of the Malay race at age 35 and here you are, older than him, and just doing pancit reviews, you can proudly say that Rizal never tasted this kind of pancit lang-lang, ever.
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