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Pancit: The Secret To A Long Life?

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There is a belief that the Venetian merchant and traveller Marco Polo introduced pasta noodles to Italy from China during the 13th century, thus it was the origin of the Italian pasta. There are other historians however who believed it was the Arabs who introduced the pasta in the Emirate of Sicily in the 19th century, with the connection that ancient Greece also had pasta.



Pancit bihon guisado – sauteed garlic, shrimp and fish sauce


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Noodles may have many origins and versions per country, but here in the Philippines, our method of cooking noodles and the beliefs associated with it are reflections of Chinese traditions and beliefs. Why is this the case? Chinese culture has a major influence on Filipino culture as majority of Filipinos have Chinese ancestors somewhere in their family tree. Some are aware of it, while others are unaware of their ancestry line, but it somehow explains why most Filipinos have Chinese surnames and Chinese features.


More than physical features or surname, the Chinese influence on the Filipino culture also has a big impact on how we celebrate our birthdays and what we serve during birthdays. A famous belief is that birthday celebrants should eat noodles or pancit (Filipino word for Chinese noodles) as this will bring long life and prosperity to the celebrant.


The ingredients in the noodles also have their Chinese traditional meanings. Adding fish or shrimp on the noodles are auspicious or will attract good luck as they represent happiness, good fortune, mobility and progress. In Chinese belief, eggs represent fertility, lettuce represents prosperity, and mixed vegetables represent family harmony. These are the ingredients one will normally find added on pancit.


This is the reason why most Chinese restaurants have “Birthday Noodles” in their menu. One example is Lugang Cafe, an elegant restaurant here in Manila, originally from Shanghai and Beijing. Although fine dining in Lugang Cafe includes trying their famous Xiao Long Bao (dumpling with warm broth inside), birthday celebrants are encouraged to try their “Birthday Noodles”.



“Birthday Noodles” by Lugang Cafe at SM Aura Premier


Locally, noodles or “pancit” have variations, like:

  • Pancit Bihon Guisado
    • popular as a birthday noodle
    • with dry, fine, white noodles
    • flavour comes from sauteed garlic, shrimp and fish sauce called “patis”
    • guisado or gisa is Tagalog word for saute
  • Pancit Canton
    • Cantonese style of noodles.
    • Chinese: lo mein (wheat flour noodles) or chow mein (fried noodles)
    • with thick yellow noodles called Yee Fu noodles
    • with thick sauce made of oyster sauce and cornstarch
  • Pancit Malabon
    • a famous pancit served during fiestas and birthdays from the city of Malabon
    • has an orange colour from shrimp extract and crab fat
    • toppings are mostly seafood like shrimp, oysters, squid, clams and mussels
  • Pancit Palabok (a.k.a. Pancit Luglug)
    • with first class, fine, white noodles called Chinese vermicelli
    • topped with thick garlic-based sauce with tinapa (finely grounded dry smoked fish) and annatto seeds (giving the sauce a red or orange colour and special aroma)
  • There are also Pancit Mami (round egg noodles), Pancit Pusit (black noodles from squid), Pancit Miki, Pancit Lomi and more!


pancitmalabon3a (1)

Pancit Malabon – popular noodles served during fiestas and birthdays


Not everybody believes that red is a lucky colour or eating pancit will bring long life and good fortune. However, there is no harm wearing something red (or bright colours) on your birthday and celebrating the day by eating delicious pancit! This is a cool way to be happy on your special day. And don’t forget to share food and celebrate with friends and loved ones. It is part of Filipino-Chinese culture that sharing good food and well wishes will bring good luck to all, especially to the giver (the birthday celebrant).


Noodles are long flour-based staple food that give sustenance and nourishment…and they connect countries and cultures. Next time that you eat pancit, remember that this dish is a century-old tradition in cooking and the recipe was carefully planned by our ancestors with the intention of giving us a happy and prosperous future. Let us respect and acknowledge our ancestors by continuing the tradition of great food!



Author: Marcelle Villegas
Photo source:
Pancit bihon -
Birthday Noodles by Lugang Cafe –








  1. Anna Marie P.Villegas says:

    wow! a delicious article. thanks for the added infos with history of pancit.

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