We made it to our family reunion this weekend. There was beautiful weather and lots wonderful food. Cousins I’d never met; the young and the young at heart! Cousins I hadn’t seen in decades with their families in tow. Throw in a few aunts, uncles, and grandparents and we had a nice crowd. Meet at a nice park with lots of shade and great play equipment. It was exactly what a family reunion should be. We are looking forward to next year and doing this more often. Hopefully more of the out of state family can make it in future years, too.
That brings me to tonight’s recipe. It is a family recipe. My step-grandmother, Myrna, is from the Philippines. Sometimes she is called Lola, other times Mamaw, but never Great-Grandma. That means I grew up learning to cook some of her traditional dishes. Boy is she a good cook, too! Pancit is the one recipe I have been able to modify to fit our diet easily. However, if you are ever fortunate enough to try Lumpia, don’t pass up that Filipino take on the egg roll. You won’t be disappointed.
Pancit is Filipino fast food. These fried rice noodles have as many variations as you have imagination. The common thread is the stir fried vegetables mixed with quick fried rice noodles. Chicken, pork, and shrimp are all acceptable meats to use together or separately as you wish. You could make this vegan with only vegetables and you would still love the outcome, but you might get a funny look from Lola on that choice.
Yesterday, there were celery and green onions in the pancit. Tonight I made mine with long beans, carrots, and mushrooms. All of the vegetables in this dish are negotiable. I even use about twice the vegetables that Lola uses. The one vegetable I think you must use is cabbage. White cabbage is normally what is used, but today I only had purple. Cut it thin so it will blend into the texture of the noodles. Make it fifty times and it will turn out differently each time. Try to find your favorite combination, and enjoy it very bite of the way.
These are the noodles Lola uses. Hers have corn in them, so I use simple rice sticks in mine for Little Man. The noodles Lola uses hold together during cooking a little better than mine do, but they both taste great. Add a pinch of salt with every addition to the wok to ensure a good distribution of flavor throughout the dish.
8 oz rice noodles, softened in hot water and drained well
safflower oil (or other mild flavored oil, I amend mine with a dash of sesame oil)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch knob ginger, minced (optional)
1 1/2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
1 lb chicken breast, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
3 carrots, cut in matchsticks
8 oz long beans, cut in 2 inch pieces (cut on the bias if they are thicker standard green beans)
4 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken broth, warmed before use
2-4 Tbsp coconut aminos or tamari (to taste, add additional salt if you leave this out)
Salt to taste
Heat water to soften the noodles.
Heat oil in wok over medium-high. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Add a pinch of salt. Stir fry for 3 minutes.
Add the cabbage to the wok and another small pinch of salt. Stir fry another 3 minutes.
Add the chicken, salt, and stir fry until cooked through. Pour chicken and cabbage mixture into a bowl and reserve for later.
Pour hot water over the noodles, soak 5-8 minutes until soft, but still al dente. You want them to finish cooking when fried in the wok. Drain in a colander, and set aside for the last step.
Add a little more oil to the wok, heat, and stir fry the carrots, green beans, and a pinch of salt until the green beans are tender-crisp and bright green, 3-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cover with the lid for a minute or two. Just don’t walk away, or everything will overcook in an instant at this step. There is nothing worse than soggy green beans at this stage. Pour into the bowl with the chicken mixture and reserve for later.
With the wok empty once again, heat 2-3 Tbsp oil over the heat. With tongs quickly fry the noodles continually moving them. At this stage you want to fry the noodles, not burn them. If the noodles start sticking, add a tablespoon or two of broth at a time to the wok to loosen those noodles from the bottom. Keep tossing and add in the coconut aminos or tamari to taste.
Add the meat and vegetables back to the wok. Toss to mix well, but don’t cook too long. Keep adding broth a little at a time as needed. It usually takes me 1/2 cup to a whole cup of broth depending on how long I soaked the noodles earlier. Be careful not to add too much broth or your noodles will turn soggy. Remove from heat.
Salt to taste and serve.