Kumbira 2013 Heritage Feature: Dynasty Court’s Winning Pancit Canton
There’s over a quarter century of tradition behind Dynasty Court’s selection as one of the Top 10 Restaurants in the Philippines with the best Pancit Canton in Unilever’s “Sooo Pinoy National Search for the Ultimate Pinoy Dish.”
Established November 27, 1987 by five entrepreneurs, Dynasty Court Restaurant aspired to offer Kagay-anons the best Chinese cuisine in Cagayan de Oro. Driven by its tasty Cantonese menu, business was so good that barely six years later, the restaurant evolved into the Dynasty Court Hotel with the restaurant still as its star attraction.
“We’re basically been using the same recipe for the past 26 years,” said Nelia Lee, Dynasty Court Hotel and Restaurant manager. Although their pancit canton is basically the same recipe one can see all over the archipelago, Ms. Lee says the secret to the taste of their winning noodles is in their “secret sauce.”
Pancit Canton was one of the 10 featured Filipino dishes in the “Sooo Pinoy National Search for the Ultimate Pinoy Dish”, a joint project of Unilever Foodsolutions, Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and Department of Tourism.
“A team from Unilever and PDI nominates food outlets around the country that best serve a particular dish,” said Jhao Carandang, Unilever sales executive. “For instance, Dynasty Court was nominated among others in Mindanao and by certain criteria bested other nominees across the Philippines.”
Carandang said ‘mystery judges’ would visit nominated outlets to judge the particular dish and rank the Top 10 restos or hotels judged to be best in a particular dish based on ‘Taste’ (balance of flavor, texture and aroma); ‘Presentation’ (creativity, use of ingredients) and‘Value for Money’ (serving size, quality of ingredients and overall dining experience).
Pancit Canton was selected as one of the featured Pinoy dishes in the “Sooo Pinoy” campaign due to its long tradition in Philippine cookery. Pancit (or pansit) was introduced by the Chinese to the country and now occupies a hallowed place in the Pinoy’s culinary heritage.
In her 2005 report entitled “Republic of Pancit”, reporter Nancy Reyes Lumen of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) says the term Pancit evolved from the Hookien (or Lanlang, as the predominantly Fookienese Chinese-Filipinos call themselves) pian i sit (Chinese: 便ê食) which means “something conveniently cooked fast.”
And fast cooking it is. I had the privilege of witnessing one of Dynasty Court’s cooks, Dioniso Alta, expertly whip up their Pancit Canton in a big wok over a roaring fire and indeed, it only took him only 5-8 minutes to cook the whole serving. Unless the restaurant is chock full of customers (as it usually is during lunch and dinner time) it only takes Dynasty Court’s kitchen 10-15 minutes from the time your order is taken by the waiter to when the steaming hot, deliciously smelling platter of Pancit Canton is served to your table.
According to food lore handed down from the Chinese, Reyes says that noodles such as Pancit Canton should be eaten on one’s birthday but cautions that “noodles represent long life and good health” so they must not be cut short so as not to corrupt the symbolism.”
Besides the noodles, Dynasty Court’s Pancit Canton pretty much retains most of the traditional ingredients we’ve come to associate with the recipe such as pork or chicken meat, shrimp, white, red and spring onions, cooking oil, garlic, carrots, celery, nappa (green cabbage), bok choy, black mushroom, chicken broth, salt, pepper and soy sauce or Pinoy style fish sauce to taste, red and green peppers.
But perhaps the great difference lies with the way Dynasty’s cooks do their pancit canton, as evidenced by the restaurant’s pedigree as the overall champion of the 2nd Edition of Kumbira, the regional culinary competition organized by the Cagayan de Oro Hotel & Restaurant Association (COHARA) and generally acknowledged to be the best culinary show and competition outside Metro Manila.
“We’re that confident of our recipe, and we believe any properly trained cook can whip
it up in no time,” Ms. Lee says.
This is what Austrian Chef Norbert Gandler, who will be back this August to head the elite panel of judges for the 17th Kumbira, noted during the many times he’s been a judge for the competition.
“You should focus on what you know and master it,” he said. “Not something completely new but improvements of your existing best dishes would be best.”
“It doesn’t matter if you use simple products,” Gandler says. “Work on the combinations, match your dishes with sidings. Don’t’ confuse. Simple and clean is much better than doing too much.”
Sure sounds a lot like Dynasty Court’s Top 10 Pancit Canton.