Pancit is a Filipino noodle dish that comes in a dizzying array of incarnations. Many people consider it to be the national dish of the Philippines, since it is so common in this tropical nation. Many people outside the Philippines think of pancit when asked to visualize the cuisine of the Philippines, and this noodle dish is often the first introduction to the rich culinary tradition of this country, which has been influenced by both Asian and Spanish cooking traditions.
It is difficult to point to one noodle dish and call it pancit. It may be made with rice noodles, wheat noodles, or noodles derived from another source of starch. It may be served with a dry sauce, a thick sloppy sauce, or even a broth or soup. Toppings are incredibly varied, including things like hard boiled eggs, shredded meat, and finely sliced vegetables, and the flavors of this dish are quite diverse.
The origins of pancit probably lie in China. Food historians suspect that the Chinese introduced the concept of noodles to the Philippines at some point, along with a few dishes which could be made with them. The influences of Chinese noodle dishes can be clearly seen, especially in dishes like pancit Canton, which is named for a city in China. The name for the dish itself is believed to be derived from pian i sit, which means "something cooked conveniently and quickly."
One common variant is pancit bihon, which is made with extremely thin rice noodles, soy sauce, citrus, sliced meats, and vegetables. Many versions incorporate multiple meats; pork, shrimp, and beef are all common. Sauces can be spicy with chilies, rich with ground peanuts, or savory as a result of the addition of soy sauce. Fans of dishes like pad thai and yakisoba would probably find pancit a relatively familiar dish.
If a cook wants to make pancit at home, it's tough to go wrong. He or she may want to include ingredients like soy sauce, sliced green onions, citrus juice, and shrimp or fish sauce in the sauce, but should by no means feel limited by these ingredients. Meats like grilled shrimp, shredded beef, and pork are all common; vegetarians may want to try tofu for texture. Pancit also typically includes cabbage at a minimum, although other vegetables tend to be welcomed, and the cook can top it with crumbled pork rinds or minced onions as a garnish.