Buddy's, a restaurant specializing in Quezon delicacies, has brought pancit hab-hab, among other things, to Metro Manila. Its noodle version is as authentically close as the one I ate in Lucban, including the spiced vinegar that is used to season the noodles instead of the usual calamansi.
But of course, it caters to Makati City patrons, and so it is a bit more affluent in terms of the ingredients than the one sold in the streets of its hometown.
I have found out, though, that the key to having genuine pancit hab-hab is using the right noodles. In this case, it is the Lucban miki, which Center Miki Factory has been churning out since 1937. It is available in fresh and dried versions, and it is a very dense and flavorful egg noodle.
I discovered this on my last visit with my friend, who has since relocated to Lucena and is now a newly-minted lawyer. While waiting for my bus at the central terminal, I went around the stalls selling Quezon products. I espied this noodle pack, and did not need another second to consider in buying it. It was one of the most prized souvenirs I ever took home.
I generally dislike pancit canton because it becomes so greasy when sauteéed I get headaches from eating it. It also goes so wimpily limp and bland when overcooked or you mix in too much water.
Lucban miki is an exception. It holds its shape and structure after cooking, and is so tasty it needs minimal flavoring. That's why pancit hab-hab is simply cooked - the added ingredients just serve to enhance the noodles' flavor.
I have since located a stall at Tiendesitas selling Lucban miki (dried), as well as bought it (fresh and dried) once from the Gaisano supermarket at the Pacific Mall in Legaspi City on a weekend jaunt there. I still have to discover other vendors, so when I don't have access to these two I try substituting it with the Bicol pancit bato, which somehow comes a bit close.
I may come across as a pancit hab-hab fanatic. Well, I may be - I love all kinds of pancit. But I try to source out Lucban miki as often as I could because I have discovered another way of cooking it.
I've found out that it lends sooo well to stir-frying the Chinese way, or at least how the Chinese restaurants in the country do it. There is a particular stir-fried noodle I like served in the North Park noodle house chain, as well as those served in my favorite Chinese restaurant in Binondo, Kim Hiong.
Now, with Lucban miki, I am able to approximate these dishes. The Chinese flavor gives the Lucban miki a whole new dimension in taste and depth of flavor, as well as creating an entirely new eating experience.
I sauté it with pieces of fish fillet, chicken meat, squidballs, bell peppers, celery, carrots, and button mushrooms, adding ground pepper and oyster sauce when it is almost cooked. It is so good it will have you believe it was a Chinese noodle instead of being a true-blue Tagalog. Pork and beef slices also lend well to it.
Besides hardinera and pancit hab-hab there are other Quezon delicacies worth mentioning, such as the special tikoy and Dealo's apas. I have yet to find them in Metro Manila, so for the meantime I'll savor Lucban miki whenever I can find it.
Center Miki Factory
8991170, 8957185, 8957980
(Open Air Food Court)
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City
Quezon's Special Tikoy, Yema Cake, Pianono