Traditionally, bihon was made with rice flour. These days, if you check the labels on packs of bihon in the supermarket, you’ll find that they are sometimes made with mung bean flour or cornstarch. Whether made with rice or not, they’re still noodles. Of course, the texture varies. So does the ability of the noodles to soak liquid and withstand a lot of stirring. Bihon made with rice flour has the best texture as it does not get soggy too fast. Those made with cornstarch get soggy if too much liquid is added. Those made with mung bean flour are comparable to the ones made with rice.
In an older recipe, I did not soak the noodles. I used real bihon (rice sticks) so I added them to the pan straight from the package and poured in broth little by little until the dry noodles soaked up the broth (and all its flavors) and expanded.
In this recipe, because I used noodles made with cornstarch, I was wary of overhandling the noodles by putting them in the already hot pan and continuously subjecting them to the heat while I poured broth little by little. So, I prepared the noodles the old-fashioned way: I soaked them in cold water until they swelled then I added them to the pan with the sautéed ingredients.
Commercial kikiam, fish balls, crab balls, lobster balls, squid balls and the like are available in the frozen section of the grocery. If you’re not living in Asia, you’re likely to find them in Asian stores. Sam likes buying them but does not take them to the condo. I recently discovered that most of them are made with fish anyway so they’re not likely to affect me adversely (I am allergic to crustaceans). Last night, I took a few pieces from a bag of kikiam and a bag of crab balls and used them to make pancit bihon. You can use any “balls” that you like; you can even combine two or three or more varieties to add color and texture to the cooked bihon.
This is a stir fried dish so you might want to read stir frying basics first.
- 80 grams dried bihon (rice sticks), soaked in cold water for about 20 minutes then drained
- 2 tablespoons vegetable cooking oil
- 1 cup seafood balls (whatever combination you prefer), sliced
- 1/2 cup flaked or chopped cooked chicken (pork is good too)
- 1 Chinese sausage thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic mined
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1 small carrot julienned
- 2 celery stalks thinly sliced
- 1 cup about 1 c. of shredded cabbage
- 10 pieces about 10 pcs. of snow peas trimmed and stringed, and cut into halves if large
- a generous pinch of salt
- soy sauce to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan.
Add the sliced seafood balls and cook, over high heat, just until the edges start to brown.
Add the slices of Chinese sausage and the chicken. Cook, still over high heat, until the sausage slices change color and lose their raw appearance (pay attention to the texture of the fat in the sausage — that’s how you can tell if the sausage is sufficiently cooked).
Add the garlic and onion. Stir fry for about 30 seconds then add the rest of the vegetables. Sprinkle in the salt and some pepper. Don’t be tempted to season with soy sauce at this point because the vegetables will look too dark by the time the dish is done. Plus, they won’t benefit from the contact with too much liquid. Reserve the soy sauce for flavoring and coloring the noodles. So, season the vegetables with salt and continue stir frying for another minute.
Add the drained noodles. Pour in about 2 tbsps. of soy sauce and more pepper. Toss and stir alternately until the noodles are heated through and the coloring looks uniform.
Taste, add more soy sauce and pepper, if needed.
Serve the pancit bihon with chicken and Chinese sausage with kalamansi halves (or lemon slices) on the side.