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Long live the pancit! |

Food and Leisure

Long live the pancit!

TURO-TUROText and photos - Claude Tayag -

Next on my list of definitive, iconic, so-Pinoy dishes (starting with the adobo, sinigang and sawsawan written about in my three previous columns) is pancit. But then again, this begs the same question as the three: Which pancit?

Undoubtedly, pancit/pansit is one of the indelible contributions of China to our culinary landscape. It may come in different forms and ingredients, stir-fried or wallowing in a rich broth, eaten as merienda or as a viand together with other dishes making up a meal. But what remains essentially the same is the filling, heartwarming comfort it has given to generations of Filipinos. Its omnipresence has born witness to many memorable family milestones, like first dates, graduations, weddings, baptisms, and most especially birthdays, being a symbol of long life that we got from the Chinese.

The term pancit in Philippine usage did not originally mean noodles. According to medical anthropologist and columnist Michael L. Tan, the original Hokkien (a.k.a. Fookien from Fujian province, where most of the original Chinese migrants in the Philippines came from) term pien sit meant ready-made food, pien meaning “finished,” or more accurately, “cooked food.” The vendors of such foods were called panciteros during the Spanish colonial times, and were actually Chinese food hawkers who catered mainly to women working in cigar factories. It was the original convenient “takeout food,” with these workingwomen having no time to do housework, much less cook.

When the pancitero settled in a more permanent space, the place came to be called the panciteria (with the Spanish suffix ria added to a noun, to mean a place where one can have such an item, i.e. cervezeria, panaderia, chocolateria, etc.) One went to a panciteria for comida China or Chinese food, and likewise, to a karinderia for Filipino fare. Though they were basically roadside eateries servicing the working and traveling public, they nevertheless were our first covered restaurants.

Over time, the term pancit referred exclusively to noodles, either the uncooked pasta or the cooked dish itself, with the word pancitero all but forgotten. An adjective is attached to the word pancit to refer to the specific type of noodles, i.e. pancit bihon (rice noodles), pancit Canton or miki (wheat noodles), and pancit sotanghon (soybean threads, a.k.a. glass noodles or vermicelli), or even the manner it is cooked, i.e. pancit guisado (sautéed) or pancit luglog (dipped in boiling water).

True, its origins may have been Chinese, but we Filipinos have embraced it like our own and given birth to a wide spectrum of malinamnam noodle dishes. And going back to the million-peso question, which pancit?

Have you ever wondered why miki is favored up north in the Ilocos region? Or Batil Patong in Tuguegarao, but just some 20 kms to its south is pancit Cabagan?  While in Pampanga it’s pancit luglog (a.k.a.pancit palabok); but a bit further south is pancit Malabon. But for Manileños it is mami, which is always paired with siopao. Going further south of the Tagalog region, it is pancit puso and pancit pusit in Cavite, while in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, it is pancit Grade 1. But in its neighboring province, Batangas, lomi is favored in Lipa City, and pancit sabsab in Taal town.  Meanwhile in Lucban, Quezon, it is pancit habhab doused in vinegar. In the Bicol region, it’s kinalas in Naga City, while in Iloilo City it’s batchoy and pancit Molo, always paired with puto. And the latest of our discoveries is udong in Davao City. 

No matter, the pancit is here to stay on the Pinoy’s dining table, whether as merienda fare or part of several dishes eaten with rice. Long live the pancit!

Join me in a malinamnam discussion on Facebook “Lb sa Fb” and “Sooo Pinoy” if you’ve been craving company eating, or even just dreaming of our cuisine.

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