One of the things I love the most about living the Philippines is, without a doubt, the Filipino food selection. It ranges from sweet to sour to spicy to salty in a span of cities and provinces. Sometimes when you travel through from one area of the peninsula to the other, the contrast between each province is striking not only in terms of appearance or culture, but with the food as well. You take one dish and each province has a unique way of cooking it that fits their identity. The diversity of each province can literally be sampled through the food, among other things. But there is this one food item that I feel is… universal, I suppose you could say, and that’s the dish I’m using to jump-start my promise to feature more Filipino food on the blog.
It shames me to admit that despite blogging for almost two years now, I haven’t shared a single Filipino recipe. When I came across this amazing blog, I felt a mixture of both guilt and inspiration. Here was a man who made a blog to cure himself of his homesickness, and here I am just neglecting what I could write about with even more clarity than all the things I have been making and sharing on the blog so far. I guess when you have seen and eaten certain things all your life, they become so commonplace that you begin to kind of ignore them. Despite the fact that there are so many things I wish I could change about this country, the one thing I love unabashedly is the food. It’s about time I start showing it.
The Filipino food draws its influences from so many cuisines: Chinese, Spanish, Malay… The list goes on and on. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the exact identity of Filipino cuisine, but you can be sure it’s delicious, just like most Asian cuisines are. The pancit canton is both associated with Filipino and Chinese cooking, though as far as I know it originated from the Chinese stir-fried noodles. Growing up a Chinese living in the Philippines, my life was a mixture of both Chinese and Filipino influences, so this dish seems rather appropriate.
Filipinos love pancit canton a lot. Every typical Filipino supermarket shopper goes home with at least 3 packets of instant pancit canton in their shopping bag. They eat it for breakfast, as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack; heck some even eat it with rice! (I never do that though. It’s just a bit too heavy for me.) My brothers and I used to eat the instant stuff for merienda (Filipino word for afternoon snack-time), but the powder has always triggered allergies for me so I’ve been sticking to a home-cooked version.
I’ve never thought about writing down a recipe for this as it’s one of those things that come out of the kitchen so much we just eyeball the measurements. Luckily I came across this yummy recipe! You don’t even have to follow the recipe strictly as far as the toppings go. This is an open canvass kind of dish you can be really creative with; adding whatever topping you want.
For instance, I prefer adding snap beans (known locally as Baguio beans) to snap peas, and sometimes I add some baby squid into the fray to make seafood pancit canton. You can even add a little bit of chopped bird’s eye chili if you like it spicy. You can follow the traditional ingredients for a start so that you will know what additions might work and what might not, but for the most part, it’s a whatever-you-have-on-hand kind of dish.
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- ½ lb. shrimp, shelled with tails on, and deveined *
- 1 boneless chicken breast, boiled and shredded
- 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced crosswise, about 3/4 cup
- ¼ lb. sugar snap peas, ends trimmed, about 1-1/2 cups **
- 2 to 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 8-ounce package dried pancit Canton noodles
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 calamansi limes
- 1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until lightly browned. Add onions and saute until fragrant and softened.
- 2. Add shrimp and stir fry until cooked. Add chicken and stir fry until well combined. Transfer meat to a large bowl and set aside.
- 3. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the hot pan. Add carrots and stir fry for a few minutes. Add sugar snap peas and stir fry for a couple minutes more. Stir fry the sugar snap peas only briefly, about two or three minutes, so the peas stay green and crisp. Transfer vegetables to the bowl with the meat and set aside.
- 4. Pour chicken stock into the pan and bring to a boil. Add Canton noodles, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
- 5. Turn the heat to medium and let the noodles simmer, stirring frequently until approximately 1/4 cup stock remains.
- 6. Add the meat and vegetables back into the pan and stir fry everything together for about 30 seconds, allowing some of the stock to remain at the bottom of the pan.***
- 7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a squeeze of calamansi.
- * You can add more toppings as you wish. I added some thinly sliced fishballs, but you can add anything from baby squid to pork slices.
- ** I used string beans diagonally sliced into 1-inch pieces.
- *** Be careful about stir-frying the noodles for too long as you don't want the stock to fully boil away. The noodles will continue to absorb the stock as it sits and cools, helping it to remain moist and "saucy".