• Pancit bihon is always served on a large plate; made for sharing. (Melissa Fox)Source: Melissa Fox
Pancit bihon reminds me that I can access the love of my grandma anytime, just by making a bowl of Filipino rice noodles.
By
Melissa Fox

28 Oct 2020 - 2:04 PM  UPDATED 28 Oct 2020 - 2:04 PM

When I was a child, I loved watching my grandma cook Filipino noodles in the kitchen. It looked as though she was performing a choreographed dance as she chopped vegetables, poured oil into the wok, fried meat, boiled the noodles and balanced the seasoning. The comforting aromas wafted through the house. When it was ready, my grandma didn't need to call anybody to the table: the scent lured everyone instead.

There was something about this pancit bihon that was reassuring, it was like it gave you a big, warm hug every time you took a bite.

My grandma would always wish us well and tell us that we made her very happy every time she saw us. But she also let us know she loved us without words.

In many cultures, cooking is a gift from the heart, and this is what our grandma gave us. She put her heart and soul into her food and we could taste it. It made us smile, it made our bellies full and it made us happy.

"She put her heart and soul into her food and we could taste it."

Her ethos was the special ingredient: the happiness she felt when she saw us, the joy she experienced while cooking for us and the memories she cherished when she saw us blissfully eating. All of that emotion somehow became embedded in her food.

My mum cooks pancit bihon at home, too. She has also taught me how to cook the noodles with the same love my grandmother imbued in the dish - something I also hope I do when I cook this myself.

Melissa Fox (from left), her grandma and mum. The popular Filipino pancit bihon noodle dish is a family favourite.

My mum's glassy, vermicelli noodles, studded with colourful jewels of carrot, celery, onion and Chinese sausage, tastes just like nannas. The cabbage weaves through a tangle of fragrant fried noodles, which is beautifully balanced with soy and fish sauce, and a sprinkling of shredded chicken. She finishes it off with a slice of fresh calamansi, a Filipino citrus fruit that my dad planted for her in their backyard. 

Whether my grandma, mum or I cook this dish, we invariably impart that special, generations-old taste of love.

Even though my grandma passed away last year at 100 years old, I know her values will live on for many more years through this dish. Sometimes I just cook it for myself when I want to feel the warm fuzzies. However, I especially love cooking this recipe for my family. What an honour it is to pass the baton on.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @olivesundays, Facebook @olivesundays or Instagram @olivesundaysPhotographs by Melissa Fox.


Pancit bihon

Serves 4-6

This recipe is a Filipino noodle dish that my grandma passed down to my mum who then passed it down to me. It's a favourite in our family and I hope it will be in yours, too.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 sticks of celery, diced
  • ¼ head of green cabbage, sliced
  • 150 g cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 4 Chinese sausages (lap cheong), sliced
  • 200 g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lemon wedge or calamansi (Filipino citrus fruit) for serving

1. Heat the oil on medium heat in a wok or large pan.
2. Fry the Chinese sausage for a minute and set aside, leaving remaining oil in the pan.
3. Add the chopped onion, stirring often, and fry until translucent.
4. Add the carrot and celery and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft with slight resistance.
5. Add the cabbage and cook for a further 3 minutes and add the chicken and Chinese sausage back to the pan to warm.
6. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to boil, add the vermicelli noodles, boil for 3 minutes, then drain and season the noodles with soy sauce and fish sauce.
7. Add the noodles to the pan and stir through, add additional seasoning to taste.
8. Serve with a slice of citrus and lots of love.

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