Pancit canton (chow mein) in a flash

Wikipedia defines chow mein as “a generic Chinese term for a dish of stir-fried noodles, of which there are hundreds if not thousands of varieties.” It says further: “In Anglo-American Chinese cuisine, it is a stir-fried dish in consisting of noodles, meat, and cabbage and other vegetables. It is often served as a specific dish at westernised Chinese restaurants with soy sauce and vegetables such as celery, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts.”

In the Philippines, we call it pancit canton which is a generic name for both a certain variety of egg noodles and the cooked dish itself.

Some serve it with lots of starch-thickened sauce; others prefer it quite dry. The following recipe has no starch-thickened sauce and is the second of three dishes I cooked using a single slab of pork belly which I pre-cooked then divided into portions prior to chilling. stir fry pork and vegetables

There are a lot of vegetables that are good with pancit canton — string beans (the short variety locally known as baguio beans), sitsaro (snap peas), carrots, cabbage, mushrooms… You can even add hard-boiled quail eggs. I cooked this dish in under 20 minutes so I tried to keep the combination of vegetables to a minimum — garlic, onions, julienned carrots and shredded cabbage.

You will need:

pre-cooked pork belly (see ‘meals in a flash‘), cut into 1-inch cubes
a head of garlic, crushed, peeled and minced
1 large onion or 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and julienned (cut into match sticks)
1/4 to 1/2 head of cabbage (depending on the size), cored and shredded
soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
3-4 tbps. of vegetable cooking oil
cooked egg noodles (simmered in broth – see related cooking tip)
pre-fried commercial fish, squid or shrimp balls, cut into rings (optional) toss the cooked noodles with the meat and vegetables

Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan (a wok is so much better). Add the cubed pork and cook over high heat until the edges start to brown. Cover loosely to avoid oil spatter. Turn the heat down before removing the cover to stir and turn it up again once the cover has been replaced.

Add the garlic and onion, stir fry for about 30 seconds. Add the shredded cabbage and julienned carrot, stir, season with soy sauce and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are tender-crisp. Add the cooked noodles, toss to distribute the meat and vegetables and serve at once. chow mein

Seasoning this dish with only soy sauce and pepper might spell bland and flat. But the success of this dish, in terms of flavor, depends a lot on how the egg noodles are cooked. That’s why I posted the technique for doing that ahead of this recipe. Please check it out before deciding to cook this dish.

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