Pancit molo? Why, I've never even heard of it!
One of the coolest things about this Filipino cooking project is learning about foods I've never been introduced to before. As a Filipina American living in California, I could tell you that I've watched so much Food Network that I knew how to pronounce and make bruschetta (broo-SKEH-tah or broo-SHEH-tah) before I could explain what adobo is. I know... sayang naman (lost opportunity). Some traditional Filipino food staples that have made it to my family parties include pancit, fried chicken wings, and buko pandan... Pancit molo was never one of them! So, here I am trying it out and maybe introducing you to a dish that you may not have heard of either.
Pancit is most popularly known as Filipino noodles. Though to my surprise, the word "pancit" doesn't even have Filipino origin! The term comes from the Hokkien Chinese word "pian e sit" meaning "something conveniently cooked." Um, yeah... What? Ancient Filipinos had strong ties with Chinese merchants before the Spaniards conquered the Philippines in the 1500s, and these traveling merchants brought pancit as their baon (lunch/takeout) to keep their stomachs full and to ease their homesickness. The same way I relied on instant ramen noodles in college, I could see why pancit was their baon of choice... noodles are easy to make, they fill the stomach, and do a great job at carrying flavor. I mean, these noodles were so convenient that Spaniards made it the nation's first takeout food when they arrived.
Now, if you've ever been to a Filipino gathering, the pancit dishes most likely present were either pancit canton (comprised of egg noodles) or pancit bihon (comprised of thin, clear rice noodles); both are typically mixed with meats, shrimp, and vegetables. How is pancit molo any different? Pancit molo originated in Molo district in Iloilo City, Philippines (see map on right), and the dish closely resembles Chinese wonton soup. Surprise! Chinese merchants settled in Iloilo too. The soup is made up of wonton wrappers, ground meats or shrimp, and some vegetables. A.k.a. the perfect soup to make for when you're feeling under the weather, need something to make you feel warm and fuzzy, or feeling inspired by this blog post :)
The general concept is to throw some aromatics into a large pot, such as chopped onions and garlic. Cook these aromatics until slightly brown and add your desired sabaw (broth)—chicken, shrimp, beef (I used chicken). Then, add some fish sauce to taste. In the wontons themselves, I seasoned shrimp, pork, and ginger and bound them using cornstarch and egg. I folded them in the steps shown below. Add these dumplings to your sabaw and cook for 15-20 minutes or until wonton skins are translucent. Then, season to taste and add biased-cut scallions as garnish (because diagonal cuts are pretty).
I made this recipe on a day when the Bay Area was having a full week of fog and rain. It was the best idea ever and my family enjoyed the soup too! Also, I think I have 80+ wontons in the fridge so I think I'm good for the next two months. Who wants to pop on over for dinner?
This pancit molo was made and photographed while listening to Serious Eats podcast episodes "Alex Guarnaschelli on Cooking for Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Prince" and "The Culinary Education of Daniel Boulud." Also while we're here, I highly recommend listening to "What Would I Tell My 20-something Self" by Good Life Project's Jonathan Fields for his thoughts on changing the way we measure success.
Hope you learned something new today and thank you for reading! :)
References and Inspiration:
The Adobo Road Cookbook by Marvin Gapultos
P.S. I keep thinking about my former dance team, CADC's 2015 closing piece to "Manolo" because it rhymes with "molo." They were amazing at the Ultimate Brawl Dance Competition (left) and if you want to find me dancing with the team for the very last time, I pop in at 5:13 in the video on the right, L O L.