Why It Works
- Quickly sautéing the garlic, onions, carrots, and snow peas together ensures a crisp texture.
- Finishing with soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce seasons the dish without oversalting it.
Pancit—a noodle dish with vegetables, seafood, and/or meat—is everyday fare in the Philippines, but it's also commonly served at birthdays, holidays, and celebrations since noodles symbolize long life. The word "pancit," which means noodles in Tagalog, is derived from “pian e sit,” in Hokkien, a language that originated in southeastern China, and a rough translation is “conveniently-cooked food.” Panciterias were arguably the first restaurants in the Philippines, where Chinese traders hawked ready-to-eat noodles to a clientele consisting primarily of farm laborers in need of a quick, nourishing meal.
Pancit comes in many forms, and the names of the dishes typically indicate the type of noodle used, the place of origin, the other ingredients, and/or the method of eating it. For example, pancit Malabon, which features an assortment of seafood, is named after a coastal city in Metropolitan Manila. Pancit palabok is served with a shrimp-infused annatto sauce and liberally topped with crushed chicharon, shrimp, pork, and sliced hard-boiled eggs. Pancit Molo, a dumpling soup that uses wonton wrappers, is named after the district of Molo in Iloilo City where a large community of Chinese settlers resided during the Spanish colonial period. And, pancit habhab is served on a banana leaf that also doubles as a utensil.
Pancit bihon, made with bihon noodles (also known as rice vermicelli), is one of the most common pancit iterations you’ll find on the archipelago. What makes this pancit so popular is the simplicity of its ingredients and the cooking process—a combination of shredded chicken, cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, snow peas, carrots, shrimp, pork, and/or quail eggs is tossed with rice vermicelli, chicken stock, and soy sauce.
For my version, I simmer chicken thighs with water to yield both shredded chicken and stock. I then stir-fry garlic, onions, carrots, and snow peas in a wok, add my noodles and stock, and cook until the noodles are soft. To finish, I simply mix in the shredded chicken and an ultra-savory combination of soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce. This easy, delicious dish is suitable for any day of week and for any occasion.
- For the Chicken:
- 1 3/4 pounds (795g) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- For the Pancit Noodles:
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) canola oil
- 7 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 medium red onion (about 4 ounces; 115g), finely diced
- 2 medium carrots (about 6 ounces; 170g), peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
- 4 ounces (115g) snow peas, stem ends trimmed and strings removed
- 8 ounces (225g) rice vermicelli noodles (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (40ml) oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) soy sauce, preferably Filipino brands such as Silver Swan or Datu Puti
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fish sauce
- 1 scallion, ends trimmed and sliced thinly on a bias, for garnish
- Calamansi halves, for serving (see notes)
For the Chicken: Fill a 4-quart saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add chicken thighs, return to a boil, partially cover with lid, then lower heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, until chicken is tender and falling away from the bone, about 40 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer chicken thighs to a rimmed baking sheet or platter and set aside until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Strain remaining liquid through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large heatproof bowl; set aside (you should have about 1 1/2 quarts; 1.4L). Once chicken is cool, finely shred chicken using two forks; discard skin and bones. Set aside.
For the Pancit Noodles: In a wok, heat oil over high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and light brown in color, about 2 minutes.
Add carrots and snow peas and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have brightened in color and are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Scrape stir-fried vegetables into a medium heatproof bowl; set aside.
Add 1 quart (1L) of the reserved broth to the wok and bring to a boil over high heat. Add rice noodles, stirring to ensure that noodles are wet. Cook, stirring frequently, until noodles soften and turn translucent, about 3 minutes; if noodles appear dry, add more stock in 1/4 cup (60ml) increments.
Return stir-fried vegetables to wok along with shredded chicken and mix well. Lower heat to maintain a simmer. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce, and stir until sauces are fully incorporated and noodles are coated in a saucy glaze.
Garnish with scallions. Serve immediately with calamansi halves (or serve with a small dish of citrus juice alongside; see note).
Wok, 4-quart saucepan
Rice vermicelli noodles can be found in Asian markets, specialty grocery stores, and online. I recommend the brand, Excellent, which contains rice flour, cornstarch, and water.
Calamansi is difficult to source fresh in the US, but occasionally Filipino groceries located in California or Florida will have them. If you can't find fresh calamansi, you can serve the pancit with a small dish of either calamansi juice (we prefer frozen, as it has a better flavor than bottled options), or a mixture of one part freshly squeezed lemon juice to one-half part freshly squeezed lime juice to one-quarter part granulated sugar (by volume).
Make-ahead and Storage
The chicken can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Pancit bihon can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.