Bistek & Pancit: Together At Last


The Chinese influence on Filipino cuisine is perhaps most evident in the Philippines’ vast array of noodle dishes known as Pancit. Pancit Miki, Pancit Molo, Pancit Palabok—all Filipino noodle dishes, and all of Chinese origin. And although Pancit Molo is basically a wonton dumpling, it is still classified as pancit in much the same way that both ravioli (a dumpling) and spaghetti (a noodle) are classified as pasta.

But of all the incarnates of Filipino noodles, Pancit Canton has to be one of my favorites—if only for its versatility and quick cooking time. Pancit Canton is a relatively thick, dried wheat noodle that is more or less like Chinese chow mein noodles. Pancit Canton is usually first softened with a hot flavorful liquid (i.e. stock or water), and then quickly stir-fried in a wok with any number of vegetables and proteins (e.g. chicken, pork, shrimp, etc.).

So when making a batch of Bistek recently, I decided that instead of serving the saucy beef dish over rice (as is usual), I’d cook it in tandem with some Pancit Canton noodles. But don’t mistake this as a separate Bistek dish served on top or alongside a separate Pancit dish—here, they are actually fused together in the cooking method wherein the noodles absorb the essence of the Bistek.

In my Bistek/Pancit Canton hybrid, a mixture of soy sauce and lemon juice is not only used to marinate some flank steak, but the salty/sour mixture is then used to soften and flavor the noodles. And because Pancit Canton is usually served with extra calamansi or lemon wedges for spritzing the noodles, the lemony Bistek marinade was a natural fit in the finished dish.

After enjoying the meaty spoils of my Bistek Pancit Canton, it got me thinking of all the other saucy Filipino dishes that would easily lend themselves to being absorbed into noodles. Say, for instance, a saucy chicken adobo cooked with Pancit Canton, or even a soupy Pinakbet. Heck, dropping the dried noodles in a pot of hot Sinigang would even make for a great Filipino noodle soup. More experimentation is on the horizon, I think. But for now, here’s the recipe for a tangy and meaty Bistek Pancit Canton:

Bistek Pancit Canton

Serves 2-4

1-1.5 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain into thin strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh calamansi juice, or lemon juice
2 tablespoons Canola oil
1 red onion, cut into thinly sliced rings
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup beef broth
8 ounces dried Pancit Canton noodles (preferably Excellent brand—that’s not an adjective, the brand is actually named “Excellent”)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Place the flank steak in a large resealable zip-top bag and pour in the soy sauce and calamansi juice. Marinate the steak in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or even overnight.

Drain the flank steak in a large fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl, and reserve the marinade in the bowl. Heat a large wok, or saute pan, over high heat until a drop of water immediately evaporates upon contact. Swirl the oil into the pan, then add the drained flank steak to the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Cook the flank steak, undisturbed, for about 1 minute, then stir-fry for 1-2 minutes more until the steak is nearly cooked through. Transfer the steak to a large platter and set aside.

Add the onion rings to the pan and stir-fry until the onions wilt and begin to soften, 3-5 minutes. Toss in the minced garlic and cook until the garlic just begins to brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour the reserved marinade, along with the beef broth into the pan and bring to a boil. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the dried noodles to the pan and toss until the noodles soften and absorb all of the liquid. At first, it may be difficult to toss the dried noodles, but keep agitating the pan and spooning the hot liquid over the noodles until they soften.

When the noodles are soft and all of the liquid has been aborbed, return the meat to the pan, add the green onions, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.


  • Allison Day October 24, 2012, 3:08 am

    Mmm, that looks and sounds really good. I’d take this over chow mein any day! 😀

  • Ly October 25, 2012, 9:06 pm

    Inventive! Looks very interesting. This reminded me of a type of pancit not commonly found in the metro, which I had in a hole-in-the-wall type of place I passed by once. It’s (the pancit) called pancit bato, and has a dinuguan sauce. A bit too salty (especially since canton noodles are already slightly salty), but with a little tweaking could be converted into a treat.
    And you’re right, some of our ulam can be paired with noodles (caldereta, for example). That pancit adobo idea would work. I remember having spaghetti noodles with an adobo-based sauce in a now-defunct restaurant in Eastwood ages ago. It was a bit on the runny side, but wasn’t too bad. Here’s an idea, since adobo’s naturally oily anyway (what with the fat leeching out into the sauce), why not make your pancit adobo more like them oil-based pasta dishes?
    I’ve been following your blog for some time now, and you’ve mentioned that you were working on a cookbook. If it isn’t too impertinent, I’d like to make a suggestion to you. Why not give new names to the dishes you’ve invented – mebbe pinoy-sounding ones, instead of, well, descriptive, functional ones (e.g. beef stew in tomato sauce).
    Anyway, looking forward to that cookbook, and thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • Ulam Pinoy October 26, 2012, 12:39 am

    That’s thoughtful and totally make sense! Thanks 😉

  • Corina October 31, 2012, 10:08 am

    I’ve been following your blog for awhile. Really enjoy it, Love the photography and colors. It’s sometimes a challenge to make Filipino food enticing to the masses. You’ve made some signature recipes easier to follow and open to other variations. Keep it up.


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