A dish of Chinese origin that has become very much a part of Filipino cuisine, pancit canton may refer to lo mein or chow mein, depending on who you’re talking to.
As far as I know, chow mein requires that the noodles be stir fried briefly in hot oil before tossing with the rest of the ingredients. It’s a step not necessary when cooking lo mein. In the Philippines, however, with or without that additional step, the dish is called pancit canton.
This recipe supersedes four older chow mein recipes. But to give credit where credit is due, let me reproduce my pancit canton journey here.
I used to think I made great pancit canton until I tried the version of a cousin-in-law, Luigi. He added a copious amount of oyster sauce to the starch-thickened sauce that usually goes with pancit canton. I adapted his style and my family was extremely happy.
Then, some 11 years ago, a reader named Ernest who was only 17 years old at the time, commented that he made his pancit canton sauce with equal amounts of oyster sauce and hoisin sauce. I tried his technique and that was how I have been cooking pancit canton ever since.
Thank you, Luigi and Earnest.
Cooking pancit canton starts with meat which can be pork, beef or chicken. Shrimps are good too. Season the meat, allow to marinate and stir fry.
Next come the vegetables. Stir fry just until softened then scoop out immediately to prevent them from cooking further in the residual heat. That’s the trick to make sure they will be tender but still a little crisp by the time the pancit canton is done.
With the meat and vegetables done, cook the sauce until it thickens and loses its cloudy appearance.
Add the noodles to the sauce and toss to coat every strand.
Dump in the cooked vegetables (I like boiled quail eggs in my pancit canton too) and toss.
Finally, add the cooked pork and toss to distribute evenly.
And your delicious pancit canton is ready to serve. You may optionally have kalamasi halves on the side.
Lovely, isn’t it? And I’ve finally perfected the trick with the starch-thickened sauce so that the noodles don’t clamp as they cool.
Pancit Canton (Filipino-style Chow Mein
For the sauce
To complete the dish
- 250 grams egg noodles prepared according to package directions (see notes after the recipe)
- 24 quail eggs boiled and shelled
Cut the pork belly into half inch slices. Cut each slice into strips less than half an inch wide.
Place the pork belly in a bowl. Add the soy sauce, rice wine and half of the garlic. Mix well. Cover the bowl and let the pork marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Peel the carrot and julienne.
Core and deseed the bell pepper and julienne as well.
Pinch off the tips of the chicharo and pull of the stringy fiber along the sides.
Thinly slice the cabbage.
Peel the shallot and thinly slice.
Heat the wok and pour in a tablespoon of oil.
Stir fry the pork in the hot oil until cooked through. Because the pork had been cut into small pieces and because stir frying requires extremely high heat, the pork should be done in less than five minutes. Scoop them out and transfer to a bowl.
Heat the remaining cooking oil in the wok. Stir fry the carrot, bell pepper, chicharo and cabbage with generous pinches of salt and pepper just until softened, about 15 seconds.
Add the sliced shallot and remaining garlic to the vegetables in the wok and stir fry for another 15 seconds. Scoop out and spread on a plate to cool them to stop the cooking immediately.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and pour into the wok. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and no longer cloudy in appearance. Don't worry if it doesn't look too thick. It shouldn't be. Slightly thickened is the ideal texture -- just thick enough to coat the noodles but not make them stick together as they cool.
Taste the sauce. Add salt and pepper, if needed (you may need to if your broth is unseasoned or underseasoned).
Add the noodles to the sauce and toss thoroughly. Cook until heated through.
Throw in the cooked vegetables and quail eggs. Toss well.
Add the cooked pork to the noodles and vegetables. Toss to distribute evenly.
Serve the pancit canton at once.
Egg noodles are ideal for cooking pancit canton.
If using fresh egg noodles, blanch in boiling water for five seconds, drain, dump in a bowl of iced water, let sit until cold then drain again.
If using dried noodles, place in a colander and pour boiling water slowly over the noodles to soften them.
If using "instant noodles" that come with their own seasonings, discard the seasonings first. Cook the noodles in boiling water until done. Drain well.
This recipe supersedes earlier versions published in June 15, 2003; January 18, 2007; April 18, 2007; December 18, 2007; and January 19, 2011.