Birthdays are always celebrated with plenty of food in my family. Lots of food. My mom, now in her seventies, still never fails to deliver a lavish spread, way more than our huge family could eat. In all these birthday gatherings, noodles are ever-present. The long strands of noodles signify long life, something that Filipinos borrowed from the Chinese. Growing up, my favorite noodle dish is pancit bihon (puhn-sit bee-hon) or stir-fried rice noodles, which is incredibly simple to make. Rice noodles soak up all the tasty flavors from the chicken stock, soy and fish sauce, which is why the key to making delicious pancit is making delicious homemade chicken stock.
My mom makes pancit with carrots and cabbage, and sometimes adds snow peas. I also remember my mom adding sliced Chinese sausage, which are the hard sausages that are made of pork, and are smoked then sweetened. It’s the same Chinese sausage that she uses when she makes fried rice with fried eggs and diced vegetables. When I was a kid, I loved digging through a big plate of pancit to thoroughly look for those sweet slices of Chinese sausage hidden under the stack of rice noodles. I would pick all the sausage and shrimp and leave all the vegetables untouched.
Last week, I made pancit for my blog’s first birthday. For long life, I hoped.
I love adding shiitake mushrooms to my mom’s recipe and, when they are in season, I love adding asparagus and sugar snap peas, too. And a spritz of calamansi gives the noodles a delightful zest.
Pancit Bihon Recipe, makes 4 to 6 servings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound shrimp, shelled with tails on, and deveined
1 boneless chicken breast, boiled and shredded
1 cup green cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons fish sauce
1 8-ounce package pancit bihon noodles
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 calamansi limes
Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until lightly browned. Add onions and saute until fragrant and softened. Add shrimp and stir fry until cooked. Add chicken and stir fry until well combined. Transfer meat to a large bowl and set aside. Add more oil to the hot pan. Add carrots and stir fry for a few minutes. Add cabbage and mushrooms and stir fry for a few minutes more. Transfer vegetables to the bowl with the meat and set aside.
Pour chicken stock into the pan and bring to a boil. Add bihon noodles, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Turn the heat to medium and let the noodles simmer, stirring frequently until approximately 1/4 cup stock remains. Add the meat and vegetables back into the pan and stir fry everything together until all the stock has boiled off. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a squeeze of calamansi.
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