The Filipino Pork & Shrimp Dumpling Soup I Grew Up On

February 14, 2017

My mother recently celebrated her eighty-fifth birthday and to celebrate, we five siblings chose twelve of our favorite recipes from those we grew up on (my mother has kept hundreds) and created a calendar to share with our other relatives. As Filipino-Americans, our cuisine is a mix of all the cultures we've encountered, including Spanish, Chinese, and Malay.

For one of the months, we featured our mother's pancit molo (which also happens to be one of our father's favorite dishes: He can eat a giant bowl of it to the last drop!). "Pancit" means "noodle" in Tagalog and Molo is a district in the city of Iloilo, which is on the southern part of Panay Island in the Philippines.

For centuries (as early as the ninth century), the Chinese traders plowed through the China Sea trading with the various islands of the Philippines (there are 7600 islands in all, depending on the tides!). Throughout time, the Chinese and the Filipinos not only traded wares but also exchanged customs, culture, cuisine (and, of course, genes).

The noodle in the soup is a variation on the Chinese dim sum dumplings, and one can argue that they're a variation of noodle, as the recipe to make the wonton wrappers is the same.

Shop the Story

But pancit molo is more of a soup than a noodle dish. The classic pancit molo is served in a robust chicken broth (or a combination chicken and ham broth). Every household or family will have their favorite dumpling filling: It can have pork, chicken, shrimp, or a combination. Unlike Chinese cooking, Filipino cuisine tends to use a lot of garlic and onion, and it's not unusual for these to be mixed into the ground meat. Sometimes, my mother also adds chopped water chestnuts or jicama for crunch.

There are different variations on the folding, too: Some will use the purse-string style; others fold a round wrapper into a half-moon and crimp the edges; some will do the same using a square wrapper, but fold it in half with the filling in the center to make a triangle. I've also seen wontons folded like envelopes of sorts.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“This "Pancit Molo (Filipino Pork Dumpling Soup)" is basically Chinese wanton soup; also "paos" (bao), "pancit" (chow mein), and "lumpia" (spring rolls)!”
— Churpie

My mother likes to add either shredded cabbage, napa cabbage, or baby bok choy. In the Philippines, there is also the leafy green called malunggay (Moringa oleifera) that's often added, and one can also toss in julienned carrots for color. Garnish with chopped scallions, crispy fried shallots, or fried garlic—it's all a matter of preference.

While I've been invited to many a lunch at a friend's home where this was served as the first course, in a shallow soup dish, pancit molo is comfort food—served on rainy days or stay-at-home-for-whatever-reason days. And it's the soup we grew up on.

What recipe did you grow up on? Tell us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Betty Ann Quirino
    Betty Ann Quirino
  • Churpie
  • Mary-Ann
  • Patricia Ruiz
    Patricia Ruiz
  • yummyinmytummy
Mary-Ann Ortiz-Luis


Betty A. February 15, 2017
This is the kind of soup meal we need on a chilly winter day like today. Thanks for sharing. I love it when Food 52 shares Filipino recipes I grew up with. It's like a warm smile from home.
Churpie February 15, 2017
"Unlike Chinese cooking, Filipino cuisine tends to use a lot of garlic and onion..." Wtf, this statement is completely BS. Chinese food all over uses garlic and onions. This "Pancit Molo (Filipino Pork Dumpling Soup)" is basically Chinese wanton soup; also "paos" (bao), "pancit" (chow mein), and "lumpia" (spring rolls)!
Churpie February 15, 2017
Cultural appropriation.
Mary-Ann February 15, 2017
Ms. Churpie. I can understand your indignation. The Philippines, which is composed of 7100 islands (depending on whether it's high or low tide), has been trading with Chinese merchants for more than a millennium. Naturally, there would be cultural exchanges, even intermarriage. In Binondo, a district in Manila, they boast of one of the oldest and still functioning Chinatown, complete with horse-drawn carriages, shrines with incense burning, and little hand-made dumpling shops. Just about every household has their own pancit molo, made from scratch. And no, you can't really say it's just a Chinese dumpling soup. Our Chinese friends would not agree. I'm half Chinese. And my Chinese dad would laugh and disagree with you. When the Italians adopted the Chinese noodles to make their pasta, did the world dismiss it as above? Cultures may adapt certain ideas but they end up making it their own. Chinese cooking uses garlic and onions very differently than Filipinos do. And it makes for very distinct cuisines. Thank you.
Patricia R. February 15, 2017
"Chinese cooking uses garlic and onions very differently than Filipinos do. And it makes for very distinct cuisines."

Having grown up in a Filipino household and then married into a Chinese family, I agree with you on that. The biggest difference in the use of garlic and onions for me, compared to Chinese cooking, is that in many (if not most) of the Filipino dishes I make, the recognizably Filipino flavor comes from cooking the garlic and onions until deeply caramelized--almost burnt. That isn't to say that they don't do that in Chinese cooking too, but I've experienced it more in Filipino cooking.
Mary-Ann February 15, 2017
Agree with you on that! We do the long slow saute to extract the best of these aromatics. The garlic component can even be more prominent, depending on what region the dish hails from. Sometimes, it can even rival a Gilroy Garlic Festival!
yummyinmytummy February 15, 2017
Pancit (means noodles) was introduced by the Chinese, but the Filipinos have adopted pancit into the local cuisine prepared in a variety of ways, including fried noodles (Chow Mein). The Pancit Molo does resemble the Chinese Wonton Soup, HOWEVER, the ingredients and the flavour distinct itself from any other dumpling soup. I think it's more flavourful and perfect on a cold winter or rainy day. It warms my heart just thinking about it :) Thank you for sharing the recipe!