Dish: Pancit Bihon
Place: Family Time Restaurant, Shoreline
On the plate: Thin rice noodles plus pork, cabbage, green-bean pieces, julienned carrot, and sliced green onions.
Supporting cast: Just a lemon wedge.
What to do: Simply spritz some lemon on the noodle dish if you'd like. I recommend it, especially to brighten up the pork, which is basically fried pork belly.Noodling around: You can order this same dish as pancit canton, which is made with egg noodles. But the rice-noodle dish is more traditional, and perhaps the best-known dish from the Philippines, along with Filipino spaghetti, which Family Time also offers.
There are actually dozens of pancit recipes, as they vary home-to-home, restaurant-to-restaurant, and region-to-region. When I spent time in southeast Asia, I was fond of a version a Filipina friend made with wider noodles and a slight hint of citrus flavor--most likely from calamansi.
Aside from a slight hit of garlic, the pancit bihon at Family Time is pretty mellow-tasting. (Especially against a spicy plate of bopis--sauteed pork heart and lungs--which we ordered along with the noodles.) It's a dry dish, with the rice sticks typically boiled in a wok with chicken broth until the liquid evaporates. The vegetables, though, remain slightly crispy.
Crispy, too, is the pork belly, which some might find too dry. You can also get the dish with chicken, shrimp, or vegetables if you prefer.
If still hungry: Lumpia ($5.95) is always a great way to start a meal at a Filipino restaurant. Unless you're vegetarian, who doesn't like deep-fried egg rolls with ground beef and vegetables? But also peek at the glass counter when you walk in the front door. There, you might be tempted by leche flan or cassava cake (both $3.95), though for the same price you can also get halo-halo (sweet fruits and beans with evaporated milk and shaved ice) as an alternative for dessert.
Be aware/beware: For those not familiar with Filipino food, note that the servers are friendly and more than happy to provide explanations. This is especially useful on the weekend, when Family Time serves some special dishes, like the bopis mentioned above. Next time I'm there on a Saturday or Sunday, I'm looking forward to trying papaitan: bitter beef and tripe stew.