I don’t mention this much for a variety of reasons, but I was something of a child actor. I had a couple of extra roles on a television show when I was ten, and when I was nine, I did a voiceover for a radio commercial.
The radio commercial was for AT&T, and it was geared towards increasing subscribers in the Philippines. Basically, there were two commercials. The first one was about a boy who would call the Philippines every few years to speak to his Lola and tell her what he wanted to be when he grew up. Eventually the conversation ended with him growing up and becoming a doctor. It was a cute turn of events, because the first time he called his Lola he wanted to be a doctor (I provided the voice for the youngest version of the boy). Lola’s response was the same every time: “That’s a very good thing to do.”
However, when I told my Lola that I wanted to be President of the United States she told me “First you have to be a lawyer, then you have to be a mayor, then you have to be a governor.” That laundry list of quasi-encouragement faded when I said “Nevermind, I’ll be a stockbroker.” And then Lola got really excited and lots of ideas really quickly…
Back to the commercial though- the second spot was a family gathered around the dinner table, and my line was “Mommy is the pancit ready?” “Yes, it’s ready!” (said the woman portraying Mommy) and I replied “Good”.
That was many years (and many lbs) ago. I received a number of royalty checks, because apparently it got a lot of airtime in the Philippines, so I guess it was a good run. I wonder what happened to the other actors. I’m fairly certain we were all of Filipino identity. And they were very nice people. And I remember they had a vending machine in the building that only required pushing a button! No money was necessary! I had a couple of free sodas that day.
I was walking down the street on Saturday and the memory popped into my mind, without any warning, rhyme or reason. It was like a song that was stuck in my head.
Now, I’ve learned that the only way for me to get rid of a song stuck in my head is to sing it around someone else and get it stuck in their head. I guess that’s why my husband is tired of that Sia song.
In this case, the only way I could make sense of why this particular memory came into my mind was to make pancit.
(Also, anyone have any tips to make my computer a little more friendly to Filipino dish names? I’m getting tired of the autocorrect changing “pancit” to “panic”.)
This is on of the most popular Filipino dishes out there- so popular that whenever I order it in Filipino food establishments that I’m experiencing for the first time, the conversation goes like this:
Me: Hi, I’ll have the pancit, and….
Worker: Oh, everyone likes that! Even you non-Filipinos…
Me: The dinuguan. Extra, dinuguan, please.
Worker: Oh, where did you learn about dinuguan? Do you have Filipino friends?
Me: Yeah, but they’re more like my father’s parents and I call them Lolo and Lola.
Worker: *embarassed laughter.*
Me: Salamat, Ate. -_-
Anyway, pancit is a celebrated dish that traces its roots to China, as noodles arrived with the Chinese merchants, traders and settlers. There are no less than ten different styles, and I’ve had them in a variety of ways. Some heavy on the veggies, some heavy on the proteins, some bland, and some instant versions that are absolutely unhealthy (but delicious).
So, please bear in mind that the recipe I am about to share is not definitive, but an outline. And for some reason, I made this off memory sans some ingredients (husband abstains from meat and poultry) so measurements are approximate, and to my family’s taste.
- 1 package of bihon noodles (Rice noodles, you can find these in Asian grocery markets)
- 1 package of cubed seitan
- 1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined. (Or not, for more flavor, but then make sure the heads are still on, too.)
- 1 1/2 cups of shredded carrots
- 1 1/2 cups of snow peas
- 1/2 a head of cabbage, sliced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (I have an extra large clove in the photo)
- 2 stalks of celery, diced.
- 1 tbsp canola oil, for sautéing.
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil for sautéing shrimp.
- 1 lemon, cut into wedge for garnish and squeeze.
- Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the bihon noodles in warm water until soft. (About 20 or so minutes)
In a large pot or pan, sauté the onions and garlic in the canola oil until onions are translucent. Add shredded cabbage and continue to cook until cabbage is soft and wilted down. Add carrots, celery and snow peas and seitan and cook for about 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and bihon noodle and mix all together until noodles are cooked through- about 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently.
In a separate pan, heat up 1 tbsp of sesame oil. Season shrimp with salt and pepper to taste and cook in sesame oil about 3-4 minutes on each side. Add shrimp to pancit.
It should look a little something like this when you’re done:
Now, I can tell you some things that I didn’t include that I would have:
- Sliced lapcheong or Cantonese-style Chinese sausages. Yes, delicious.
- Shredded, salt and pepper seasoned roasted chicken. Yes.
- Paddy straw mushrooms
- Baby corn
- Water chestnuts
Now, I know the ingredients I would have added make it dangerously close to stir-fry, but I’m wondering what it would be like to combine the different types of pancit I’ve had from memory.
But I’m thinking I shouldn’t push my luck with my memory for the rest of the week, because I was able to recall something from childhood that I haven’t thought about in years. Instead, I’m just going to enjoy the food, and smile at the fond memory that I honestly haven’t thought about in years. I don’t feel old, because food like this keeps me young. 😉