There are two specific dishes that I’ve never really been a fan of: pancit bihon (thin rice noodles sauteed with pork and vegetables) and paksiw na pata (also known as humba; slow-cooked pork leg in soy, vinegar, and fermented black bean sauce). This is not to say that I loathe them; I actually like them. However, if given a choice, I wouldn’t exactly order them and go for something else. In the case of the pata, I would prefer that it be cooked pata tim style, which is to say that it was braised in soy sauce with baby bok choy and plenty of mushrooms. As for the pancit, I’ll stick to the thicker noodled pancit Canton or go for the more flavorful palabok.
This is why I was pretty gobsmacked when my sister turned us all on to a delightful concoction known very simply as pata-bihon.
Pata-bihon is a specialty of a little hole in the wall named Tito Rom Capitol Restaurant which claims to have been feeding the masses since the 1940s. It is, essentially, a panciteria – a restaurant that specifically deals with noodle-based dishes, mostly stir-fried and braised noodles to be exact.
It is a culinary marvel, really: rice noodles doused with braised pork leg and embellished with bits of cabbage and carrot. The idea is to toss the noodles with the pork leg and its sauce very thoroughly prior to serving. Served thus, you get a smoky, slightly sweet dish with a properly unctuous, even sticky texture. The noodles absorb the flavors of the sauce beautifully and are just plain tender to the bite. The pork leg has been slow-cooked till the meat literally falls off the bones and the fat and skin become gorgeously melty, even creamy.
Seriously, it’s the sort of dish that can give vegetarians, noodle purists, and health buffs some serious nightmares. But when something this interesting tastes incredibly good, I say stuff the lot of them and enjoy the dish in all its saucy, meaty glory. 😀