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Asian rice noodles, the healthier way

Rowena Dumlao-Giardina resides in Italy, cooking and photographing her family's interesting meals on Apron and Sneakers. After moving to Italy in 1999 from the Philippines, she has traveled extensively around the country and the rest of ...

Pancit bihon

Every Asian country has its own version of rice noodles and every single one is good. Let me show you my healthy Philippine version that I simply sautéed with lean ingredients.

Sautèed rice noodles (Pancit bihon)

Give me a plate of pancit bihon or sautéed rice noodles, and I will sit in my own corner at the table and enjoy every single forkful I get. I love this dish, always have and always will. I guess I can say that it's one of my comfort foods, especially when I was young. I liked having it for an afternoon snack, between the big meals, with a few squeezes of calamansi lemons (or regular lemons when they are not available) mixed with fish sauce to make the flavors stronger, just like how I like it.

Being away from the Philippines, I started to make my own version and adapted it to my husband's and kids' tastes. Traditionally, there would be pork belly and shrimp, but I opted for something healthier and replaced the pork with chicken white meat. Sometimes I add shrimp for more flavor but since my family likes it simple and healthy, I just stick with the chicken. So here you go, a simplified and healthier version of the noodle dish I grew up with.

Sautèed rice noodles (Pancit bihon)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 3/4 pound chicken white meat
  • 2 medium onions, 1 left whole and 1 roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more if needed in seasoning the dish
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup string beans, sliced (about 1/4 inch in length)
  • 1/2 cup carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup red or regular cabbage, strips
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce plus more to add when serving if desired
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound rice noodles (also called vermicelli noodles)
  • Calamansi or regular lemons if desired

Directions:

  1. Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil with the chicken, peppercorns, whole onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Skim off the foam that forms on the surface. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, take it away from the broth and set aside.
  2. With the broth still simmering, cook the noodles for 3 minutes (the cooking will be finalized in the wok later). Loosen them while they are cooking. Strain them and transfer them to a bowl and leave the broth in the pot.
  3. Dice the chicken then set aside.
  4. Over medium heat, in a wok or big saucepan, sauté the garlic and onion for 2 minutes then add the chicken. Toss together until the meat colors.
  5. Add the string beans, carrots and cabbage. Toss for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked but still crispy.
  6. Add the noodles and 3/4 cup of the broth. Toss the noodles with the vegetables and meat. Season with the soy sauce, fish sauce and pepper. Check if salt is still needed. Let the noodles absorb the liquid then turn off the fire. The noodles are cooked when they are tender and when they have absorbed the liquid.
  7. Serve with fish sauce and calamansi lemons or regular lemons if desired.

More Asian noodle recipes

Thai peanut noodle bowl
Stir-fry noodles with shrimp and vegetable

Toasted ramen noodle salad

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