In the Filipino language, pancit or pansit (“pan-sit”) is the word for noodles, but things are never as simple as they seem. Wikipedia, for instance, lists at least 32 variants of pancit in the Philippines, with the second word in the name indicating the type of noodle used, its town of origin, cooking style, or key ingredient; for example, common varieties include pancit bihon (“bee-hon,” translucent rice noodles) and pancit Malabon (“mah-lah-bon,” from a city north of Metro Manila that uses fat rice noodles and a shrimp-based sauce). Sometimes pancit is dropped altogether in a dish’s name and you’re left with the second word as the name of the dish, as in lomi (“loh-mee,” thick egg noodles in a slurry soup), miki (“mee-kee,” yellow wheat noodles), and sotanghon (“so-tang-hon,” glass noodles or vermicelli). The word pancit is derived from the Hokkien Chinese “pian sit,” meaning “finished” or “cooked food,” not exclusively noodles—but that’s how the word’s evolved here in the Philippines, and indeed, noodles are widely offered ready-to-eat in karinderias (“kah-rin-der-yas,” Filipino cantina-style eateries) and as a “short order” item on many restaurant menus. They tend to be eaten alone as a snack or as one of several main courses.
As for the curiously named* pancit canton: It looks very similar to Cebu’s bam-i (see entry), with a different type of noodles. Its medley of medium-thickness wheat noodles, vegetables, and bits of meat can include carrots, beans, cabbage, snow peas, mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, pork, fish balls, and Chinese sausage. Sautéed onions and garlic and soy sauce make up the base flavors of pancit canton, which is said to be pretty similar to yakisoba or even Western-style lo mein. However, the explosion of colors, flavors, and textures from the added vegetables and meat make pancit canton a more festive dish, explaining why it’s a mainstay of birthday parties and other special occasions. Since it’s also offered consistently at a range of restaurants, we deemed it suitable to include here.
*Good to know: Despite its definite Chinese origins, you won’t find “pancit canton” in China, even in Guangdong (modern-day Canton). The misnomer likely stems from Filipinos using the word “canton” to describe Cantonese-style food and/or flavors, as are found in this dish.