The republic of pancit

Mike Aquino for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
LifeoftheParty Food Trip

From its far-away Chinese origins, pancit has become completely Filipino, thanks to the endless adaptations that we Pinoys have spun on the simple noodle dish.

The noodle, by itself, is endlessly adaptable: it can be served stir-fried (like pancit Canton); drowned in a broth (like batchoy); or dry with a thick sauce ladled on top (pancit luglog). Add the regional variations that have arisen from the use of local ingredients, and you have a unique pancit dish for almost every community you visit in the Philippines.

Pancit Canton: The One and Only

Pancit Canton is probably the first thing that pops to mind when "pancit" is brought up—a stir-fried pancit with a flavor base of soy sauce and ginger, and topped with whatever strikes the chef's fancy: squid, shelled shrimp, fishballs, Chinese chorizo, and vegetables. Diners usually eat pancit Canton with a side sawsawan (dipping sauce) of soy sauce and calamansi juice.

Despite the name, pancit Canton does not have any equivalent dish in Canton (now Guangdong) in China. Around our neck of the woods, no birthday celebration is complete without a bandehado of pancit Canton, its long noodles a wish for "long life".

[Also check out Roxas city's seafood markets.]

Pancit Luglog: Shrimp sauce specialty
The name "luglog" comes from the way the rice noodles are cooked: submerged (luglog, or lublob) in boiling water for several minutes. Pancit luglog and its variants can be found throughout Metro Manila and Central Luzon.

Whether you call it "pancit luglog" or alternatively, "pancit palabok", it means the same thing: rice noodles topped with a thick shrimp sauce colored orange by achuete oil, and garnished with ingredients specific to the local area, usually seafood. The variant made in Marilao, Bulacan is topped with crumbled okoy (shrimp fritters); Bataan's pancit palabok is heavily laced with tinapa (smoked fish), a local export product.

Pancit Malabon is the most popular member of the pancit luglog family, due in part to its elaborate richness. According to chef Claude Tayag, in his article, "Long live the Pancit!" on, Navotas' fishing boat operators hail from Malabon; thus their take on palabok "is topped with an assortment of seafood, tinapa, Chinese cabbage, and hard-boiled egg." Pancit Malabon also uses a spaghetti-thick rice noodle compared to the bihon noodle used in pancit luglog.

Pancit Batil Patong: Tuguegarao's pancit supreme
The name for Tuguegarao's official pancit dish comes from its use of egg in two ways: whisked (batil) and patong (placed on top). The batil comes from the egg-drop soup served alongside the pancit; the patong refers to the topping placed upon the pancit. Miki egg noodles are stir-fried and topped with carabao beef, bean sprouts, and in the place of honor at the very top, a sunny-side-up egg.

A serving of batil patong simply isn't complete without a sawsawan of vinegar, soy sauce, calamansi juice, and a garnish of freshly-sliced onions.

Pancit Habhab: From hand to mouth in Lucban

The pancit peculiar to Lucban, Quezon is more famous for how you eat it than for what's in it.

Pancit habhab is simply miki (egg noodles) sautéed with pork meat, pork liver, shrimp, pechay and sayote, with a dash of cane vinegar. But instead of being eaten from a plate, authentic pancit habhab is served on a square of banana leaf, which is then folded and lifted to the mouth; the pancit goes straight from the leaf into your mouth!

Batchoy: Lunch Break a la Iloilo
That batchoy was first served in La Paz Market, Iloilo City is beyond question; but the actual inventor of La Paz Batchoy is subject to some dispute. If you assert that Federico "Deco" Guillergan Sr. created batchoy, you're probably a regular of the batchoy place his son runs today, Deco's. If you just as strongly contend that Teodorico Lepura invented the delicious noodle dish, then you're probably a stalwart of Ted's Oldtimer La Paz Batchoy.

Whether you frequent Ted's, Deco's, or one of thousands of other batchoy places around Iloilo, the makeup of batchoy consists of a few key ingredients: miki (egg noodles) topped with chopped-up laman loob (pork entrails, innards), liver, garlic, egg, a dash of guinamos (Visayan fish paste) and a crumbled chicharon garnish, all bathed in a clear broth. A bowl of batchoy goes down best with a side dish of puto.

Lomi: Batangas' pride

This soupy pancit dish is so popular in Batangas that it gets a whole feast day dedicated to its goodness: the Lomi Festival, celebrated in conjunction with Lipa's Foundation Day in mid-June. Almost every Batangas street corner has a lomi house or panciteria serving its own special recipe: a variation of the original lomi created by Lipa restaurateur To Kim Eng in 1968.

The typical lomi combines thick egg noodles with broth (caldo) and an assortment of meats: pork liver, sliced meat or fish balls, kikiam, crab meat, quail egg, and crumbled chicharon; sometimes the ensemble is topped with a whisked egg. A thick broth (caldo) bathes the lot.

A true-blue Batangueno sitting down to a serving of lomi will season their own bowl with calamansi juice, chopped onions, fried garlic, chili sauce, or soy sauce to taste; thus no two dishes of lomi really ever taste the same!

Pancit Langlang: Cavite pancit a la Rizal
You can't get a better endorsement of your pancit than pancit langlang gets from Jose Rizal himself. In a chapter of El Filibusterismo, Rizal has a character sing the praises of this pancit from the Tagalog region: "Gentlemen, the pansit lang-lang is the soup par excellence!"

These days, pancit langlang can be found around Imus in Cavite. There, panciterias serve langlang as flat miki noodles drenched in soup, mixed with onions, shredded adobo meat, and chicharon, with the optional addition of sliced hard-boiled egg.