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.
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.
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.
For the wontons and wonton assembly:
- 15 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup sliced scallions
- 30 to 35 wonton wrappers
For the soup:
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup strips of boiled chicken meat
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup sliced shallots, for garnishing
What recipe did you grow up on? Tell us in the comments.