The pork slivers sizzled in the skillet together with the garlic, onions and celery sautéing lazily in hot vegetable oil. The salty aromas of soy and fish sauce coated the thin rice noodle tendrils. I slowly mixed the whole conglomeration of meat, pork and dry noodles the way my mom taught me, as my boys waited in anticipation with their forks and chopsticks. I was cooking Pancit Bihon Guisado and it was going to be a great caboodle of noodles, I just knew it.
Igisa mo lang lahat” (just sauté it altogether) were cooking instructions I often heard my mom say when she discussed the Pancit Bihon Guisado recipe with my aunts or cousins back in the day.
Guisado (say ‘ gih- sah- doh’ ) comes from the word “gisa”, which means ‘to saute’ in Pilipino. Pancit Bihon Guisado is a Filipino sautéed rice noodles dish that has little slivers of pork, chicken, shrimp bits cooked together with sliced assorted vegetables. A sprinkling of lemon and fish sauce are added at the end of cooking, giving the noodle sauté the right Asian twist of flavors.
Like other ‘pancit’ (say “panh – seet’) dishes I have cooked, historians cited it was the Chinese that put noodles on our Filipino menu, long before Spain colonized us in the 16th century. “We all know that it was the Chinese who brought pancit or noodles to our shores…” (from “Pinoy Umami : The Heart of Philippine Cuisine “ 2009).
Most Asian dishes are made like this. Meat is a pricey ingredient in Asia, so it is sliced thin and small, but flavored robustly to make it unforgettable. The dish is extended with the addition of big bunches of backyard vegetables and a multitude of noodles. The sauce is kept salty with a good balance of fish sauce and soy sauce, and to neutralize it, a layer of lemon is spritzed all over.
When you add the dry noodles, they will appear pale and white-colored at first. Slowly, the small amount of broth flavored with the sauces will coat the thin noodles till they get drenched in a light golden hue. As you mix everything in the skillet, the ingredients come together like a colorful carnival, magnificent with varying Asian flavors. Whether you plunge a fork or a set of chopsticks, into the intricately noodles woven with vegetables and meat , you’ll enjoy the slippery tendrils coated with the garlicky-fish sauce that’ll hit your senses right on the mark!
Pancit Bihon Guisado - Filipino Rice Noodles with Vegetables
- 225 grams Pancit Bihon or dried rice noodles Filipino brands specify 'Bihon' on labels, from Asian markets
- 1/2 pound pork shoulder sliced thin, in 2-inch cuts pork shoulder
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce divided, use 1 Tablespoon to marinate the pork, rest for saute
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 whole onion chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 11/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 Tablespoon patis or Filipino fish sauce
- 2 cups green beans cut in 1/4 inch length pieces
- 1 whole carrot peeled, chopped
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper powder
- 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 whole lemon, for the juice
- 2 stalks scallion greens for garnish
- 1/4 pound boneless chicken breast sliced in 1-inch length pieces (optional to add to pork during saute)
- 1/4 pound fresh medium-sized shrimps peeled, heads and tails removed (optional to add to pork during saute)
- In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the vegetable or corn oil.
- Add the garlic, onions and celery. Saute these quickly for 1 to 2 minutes till onions become translucent.
- Add the pork slivers. (If desired, add the sliced chicken and shrimps at this time). When meat turns from pink to a brown color after about 8 minutes, add the broth and fish sauce.
- Blend well and add the soy sauce. Mix in the carrots. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Then add the green beans, which will take 6 minutes to cook.
- Add the shredded cabbage, which will take 1 to 2 minutes to cook. Do not overcook cabbage or it will get too transparent and disappear in the dish.
- At this point, broth should be very hot and blended well with the flavors of the meat and vegetables. Slowly add in the noodles in two or three batches. Coat the noodles with the sautéed vegetables-meat-broth mixture. Keep turning the ingredients around the skillet till the noodles turn from a fair white color to a golden hue from the soy-fish sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper. Pour in a the drops of sesame oil.
- Garnish with scallions. Sprinkle the lemon juice over it. Serve hot.
COOK’S COMMENTS : Optional ingredients: Saute together with the pork:
- 1/4 pound sliced boneless chicken breast
- ¼ pound medium sized fresh shrimps, peeled, heads,, tails removed
- If there are food allergies, omit the shrimps and fish sauce. The soy sauce and sesame oil will give it the right amount of Asian flavors.
- Recipe Notes: The dry noodles will seem long and laborious to work with at first glance. Do not be dismayed by this. But resist the urge to cut the dry noodles before adding to the pan. Asians do not cut the noodles because they symbolize long life and prosperity in the dish. Once the noodles soften in the broth and sauces, they will be easier to handle and picking them up with chopsticks or twirling them in a fork will work out well.
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Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.
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