I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating that I am half-way there. I am celebrating that I am in week 20 of my pregnancy and things are going very well. I am celebrating that the doctor just said that we’ll be the parents of two little girls. And I am going to celebrate the best Filipino way I know how, with a plate of Pancit Canton (Pahn-seet Cahn-ton.) These 16-ounce packets of wheat noodles have yet to appear on the shelves of Prague’s grocery stores, therefore I usually reserve them for special occasions, such as birthdays or Christmas dinner. (Back in NYC, a package costs about $1.99 and I have been known to buy some to take back, and have asked family members to stuff a few bags into their suitcases when coming to visit) But, these are special times and that means the pancit must come out.
Pans of pancit regularly appear on the tables of a Filipino celebration: birthday, christening, Christmas or Easter. Those long, thin strands mixed with vegetables, meat, shrimp or tofu sits waiting to be devoured by the multitude of guests. Growing up, my family had me believe that if I ate a plate of these sautéed noodles every year on my birthday, I would live a long and prosperous life. My grandmother just turned 89 in March and still exhibits the same sharp wit I have known since childhood. Obviously, Grandma ate her share of pancit too. It’s impossible for me to take this family superstition lightly.
When I introduced this dish to my husband’s side of the family, my Spanish father in-law thought it was a very complete meal. You have your carbohydrates, protein and vegetables all in one. Lately, some friends who recently became parents have been sharing stories about the kinds of foods that appeal most to their children. Many of the flavors that the mothers had exposed their little ones to while in utero, are ones that the babies favor and seek out. I think it is time to introduce my twin girls to the taste of pancit and get them ready for this birthday tradition.
Pancit Canton with Tofu (Grandma’s recipe)
14- 16 oz package of Pancit Canton
2 cloves of garlic
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced thinly
2 celery sticks, sliced thinly
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly (I used napa)
1 block of tofu, diced and fried lightly in vegetable oil
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 cups of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce
salt and pepper for extra seasoning
sliced lemon wedges
Heat a large, deep non-stick pan and place two tablespoons of oil.
When ready, add the tofu.
Fry until crispy and pale yellow.
Scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic.
When it turns slightly golden, add the onions.
When the onions become transparent, add the carrots and celery.
Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the cabbage.
After adding the cabbage, also add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, salt and pepper and stir fry.
The vegetables should maintain a crisp tenderness to them.
It should probably take another 3-4 minutes to cook.
When done, remove and set aside.
In the same pan, add the broth, remaining tablespoon of soy sauce and a little bit of salt.
When the liquid comes to a boil, gently add the noodles.
Evenly mix the noodles with the sauce and allow the liquid to get absorbed.
After a few minutes, add the vegetables and tofu.
Continue to carefully mix the ingredients all together.
Serve warm with lemon wedges on the side.