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The Crowd Pleaser

As a child, we spent every other weekend at a neighboring Filipino home, or attending a Filipino picnic, or a Filipino bbq; all of which included a Filipino house blessing, or a Filipino prayer—you know what I'm saying. And of course, there was always food! So much food!

It went like this....

"Hi Auntie Tessie! Where should I put the Pancit?"

Now this woman, "Auntie Tess" isn't really my aunt. Younger Filipinos address every parent-aged Filipino as Auntie or Uncle. It’s just part of our culture.


At every Filipino gathering, each family brings their signature go-to dish. And my family, like many other Filipino families, would bring Pancit - the traditional Filipino noodle dish.

Every June we attended our annual Club Filipino Friendship Society's Father’s Day Picnic. Chicago’s dreadful summer humidity never stopped us from having a good time. We arrived upon loud, random chatter in both English and Tagalog. Laughter knows all languages. I remember this specific day in the late 80's, MC Hammer played from a karaoke machine, a three-legged race was in full swing, and it smelled like a mix of bbq, soy sauce, and bug spray.

The park nestled next to forest preserve making the mosquitos unbearable. One year I counted 23 bug bites on my body. Totally gross, yet so much fun!

“Heather, grab the food. Bring the food over there.” My dad tells me as he points with his chin to the picnic tables. My dad took much pride in his personal Pancit recipe. As he should for he had the best and most sought-after Pancit.

“Hi Auntie! Where should I put the pancit?”

“Aye Heather! Naks naman! You must sing for us! Food goes there (points with chin). Go eat!" My Auntie exclaims as she kisses me on the cheeks, and then spanks my butt.

Disclaimer: Filipinos love singing and karaoke. I sang for 9 years. If you can sing, you immediately become the favorite neice, nephew, cousin, or grandchild.

I place my dad's Pancit along with the other Pancits. Filipinos of all ages immediately get in line to have a piece of my dad's food! The crowd is wild! His Pancit was always the first to run out. I'm so proud!

I later find my dad, beer in hand, dancing and laughing with the other dads. I find my mom with the other moms, signing by the karaoke machine. My sisters were huddled amongst the super cool new wave teens, and I, all but 12 years old, run off to find my friends in the midst of a water balloon war.

How lucky am I to have such food-filled,

fun-loving memories?

As much as I love Pancit, I'm not crazy about the traditional ingredients used in this dish. Back then, my parents didn’t understand how toxic vegetable oil is. And unfortunately, Filipinos LOVE to fry everything in vegetable oil. Luckily, I'm here to show you that Pancit can STILL be a crowd pleaser, even with healthy ingredients!

Here’s my version of Pancit that’s made clean, simple, and tastes just as good as dad’s!



  • 1 ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar

  • 3/4 cup liquid or coconut aminos

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1 large onion, julienne – sliced thin, divided

  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced (chopped small), divided

  • 1 bunch of carrots, peeled and sliced thin – lengthwise (julienne)

  • 1 small head of cabbage – green or red (fyi - red tends to turn your other ingredients red), sliced thin

  • 1 zucchini, chopped into half moons – sliced medium

  • 1 squash, chopped into half moons – sliced medium

  • 1 medium piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half. You will need a grater to grate ginger onto the dish

  • 3 tablespoons of low sodium fish sauce

  • 2 lemons -1 zested and juiced. 1 chopped into wedges for garnish

  • 2 green onions, sliced

  • Whole package of brown (or white) vermicelli rice noodles

  • 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoon of Himalayan salt, divided

  • 2 teaspoons black pepper, divided

Prep time: 20 Min Cook Time: 18 min yields: 4


1. Cook the brown rice noodles as listed on the package. Or, try this method: When cooking vermicelli rice noodles, I boil the water on high heat with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. The olive oil is what keeps the noodles from clumping. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, turn the the heat and off and remove the pot from the stove. Drop the noodles in the water, and then cover it with a lid for 3 minutes. After the three minutes is up, run the noodles under cold water in a colander. Set aside. Be sure to keep an eye on them for they can turn mushy really fast. Buy 2 packages just in case you overcook them! 😘

2. Chop and prepare the vegetables as listed above.

3. Place the chicken thighs, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup liquid aminos, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup sliced onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 small piece of ginger, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 pinches of black pepper in a medium sauce-pan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Shred the chicken it's juices and let it sit. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the vegetables.

4. Place a large saute pan/work over medium heat on the stove. Once the pan gets hot, add coconut oil and make sure it coats the entire pan. If you need to lift the pan a bit to coat it, please do. Count to 20 seconds and add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir the garlic and onion around so it doesn't burn. If the pan is too hot (if the veggies are smoking) turn the heat down.

5. Add the rest of the veggies and sauté, stirring constantly. Take a grater and grate the remaining piece of ginger directly into the pan. Cook for about 7 minutes or until vegetables are soft and somewhat caramelized. Add the aminos and fish sauce, cook and stir for another minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

7. Turn the heat off and remove the pan from the hot surface. Fold in the noodles. Zest and squeeze in the lemon juice throughout the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. Place on a plate and serve. Place lemon wedges around the noodles. Sprinkle sliced green onions on top for garnish.


Paleo/Whole 30: substitute brown rice noodles with spaghetti squash

Vegan: replace chicken with edamame


Be sure to remove the pan from the heat prior to folding in the noodles otherwise the noodles won't retain their shape.

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