I enjoy cooking, and I like to try new things. So when my friend Niriel gave me a pan of pancit last year, I had to have the recipe. My whole family loves this stuff.
(I eat it for breakfast. Shhh.)
My foray into authentic Filipino cooking didn't go so well, and I immediately whined to Niriel about it. She promised to let me come over and watch her make it sometime, and I jumped at the chance. Yesterday was the day.
When I got there, Niriel had everything prepped—all the chicken and veggies cut up, bowls and wok set out—and was strapping on her apron. Niriel is all about the production. I offered to help, but it was obvious I should take my little camera and stay out of the way. So I did.
Start with rice noodles, or rice sticks, as Niriel calls them.
Don't you wonder why there's a crawdad on the package? That's quite a mixing of cultures.
She set them to soak in a pan of cold water, shaking them around to loosen them up.
She uses chicken cut in small pieces, green beans, carrots, and celery cut julienne-style. Except the celery. Just cut that diagonally so it's pretty.
Isn't she awesome? I didn't have to do any of this! It was better than Food Network! There's also some cabbage around there somewhere.
Niriel turned the burner on under the wok (and what a wok! You could bathe a baby in it, it's so big!) to somewhere between medium-high and high before she set the noodles to soak, so by now it was nice and hot. She added a few tablespoons of oil and dumped in 6 or 7 minced cloves of garlic. She uses fresh. She actually wrinkled her little nose at the thought of that nasty stuff in a jar. (I'll have to remember to throw mine away . . .) And an onion that's been cut in half and sliced into half-rings.
Let it cook a few minutes until it just starts to soften, and then dump in the chicken.
Stir it around every so often and let it brown. You can add a little pepper if you want. Niriel does.
While it's browning, crumble a chicken bouillon cube in top. Or two. Niriel had these huge things that were about the size of four regular-size cubes. She used half of one here, so may two regular cubes? Add soy sauce. Keep stirring and you'll see that it starts to make an amazing, rich broth.
Can you smell it? Can you? I'm drooling on my camera.
Now dump in the green beans and stir it around for a minute. Then add the carrots.
Give it a minute or so, and then add the celery.
Now I know what you're thinking. "I don't liiiiike cooked celery!" Trust me here. Add the celery or you'll live the rest of your life in regret.
Stir it all around and let it get happy. Make a well in the center and dump in the cabbage.
Let that steam for a minute or so and then stir it all together.
Take a picture of the cook.
Do you see the size of that wok??? That is a serious cooking tool!
Where was I? Oh yes, now dump the whole chicken/veggies mixture into a colander over a bowl so you catch the juice.
Put the wok back on the burner and make your own broth with water, the rest of the chicken bouillon, soy sauce, oil, and pepper. Add the juice you just drained off the veggies.
Let it boil for a minute or so to get rich and yummy, and . . . oh, wait! I missed something!
Remember the noodles? Yeah, I forgot too.
Grab handfuls of them and hold them over a colander in the sink. Use scissors to cut them up a bit, otherwise you'll never be able to serve it. The entire package is just one long noodle that reaches to the next county. And for heaven's sake, don't cut your fingers. I was really concerned about Niriel cutting herself. It helped a lot.
Okay, now that the broth is happy and the noodles are manageable and drained, start putting handfuls of noodles in the broth and stirring it all around to coat them.
I'm convinced half of what makes this stuff so good is all the stirring I watched Niriel do. So stir!
Now you let the noodles absorb all the rich flavor. And stir. Not constantly—you don't want to beat them to death, just keep them evenly absorbing and cooking. Do this until the noodles are translucent and there's no more broth left.
We're getting close! Can you feel it?
Now start putting the veggies in, a little at a time. And stir. Always with the stirring and tossing.
Add some more. You don't want to skimp.
Ahhh! Close your eyes and just smelllllll that!
Oh. Sorry. I'll do it for you.
Amazing. Incredible. There's nothing like it. Hers is so much better than mine! And then Niriel asked if I wanted to try a squeeze of lemon on it. I thought she'd lost her mind, but figured how bad could it be, right?
It was even better! Sorry there's no picture—I was, um, busy. Yeah.
Niriel gave me a big pan to take home for supper along with a bag of homemade lumpia. Everybody needs a friend like her.
Niriel's youngest son, Jesse, is bored with it all. He gets to eat this all the time.
So here's the recap, in case you missed any ingredients (most of these are approximate):
1 (16-oz.) package rice sticks
6 or 7 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut in half-circles
1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut in small bite-size pieces
2 cups julienned carrots
2 cups julienned green beans
2 cups celery, cut diagonally
2-3 cups shredded cabbage
4 tablespoons soy sauce (or maybe a little more. Eyeball it.)
1/2 large chicken bouillon cube (or 2 small ones)
for the broth:
2 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 large bouillon cube (or 2 small ones)
6 tablespoons soy sauce
(If you run out of broth before the noodles are done, you can always add a little more water and soy sauce.)
Enjoy! I'm going to have breakfast. Guess what I'm eating . . .
Be thankful ~