Nobody else knows pancit much like Marvin Gaerlan does. And his Instagram account @pancitlove proves that.
Since he started his page in September 2012, the transportation and logistics professional has immortalized the many varieties of pancit he has probed on, searched for, and tasted over the years. To date, he has more than 100 Pinoy noodle dish posts, from the gooey maki mi in Ongpin, pancit pusit in Cavite, to the pancit Cabagan in Isabela and batil patung in Tuguegarao.
Not every single pancit he samples makes it to his social media account, though. “I have reached a point where I need to be blown away—or at least intrigued—by the pancit I eat before I post it. More than the photo, I feel the need to tell my audience the story behind what I just ate. Unique posts count, but the taste and background story of the dish matter most.”
The 38-year-old admits that he likes Filipino food but he feels a special kind of joy whenever he enjoys a plate of noodles. “Maybe because I associate it with rewards or celebrations,” he says. “My dad used to bring home a bag of miki-bihon guisado or lomi as pasalubong on paydays. We’d also have family jogs at Rizal Park on Sundays and they would not be complete without beef wanton mami at the park-side eatery. Add to that the countless birthday parties, family reunions, and other celebrations where pancit Malabon, spaghetti or bihon guisado sa bilao were always present.”
Asking him the best pancit he has ever had can be a bit of a conundrum, as “best” can mean many things for the foodie. In terms of sentimental favorites, it would have to be his mom’s miki and his wife’s family’s sotanghon guisado. When it comes to accessibility, his top five are lomi con lechon by Luyong’s Eatery in Marikina, batil patong by Marlon’s Eatery in Antipolo, pancit Cabagan by Pancit Cabagan sa Blumentritt, lechon mami by Zubochon, and chopsuey fried noodles by Kim Hiong Garden in Binondo. The most interesting of the lot has to be the pancit puti by LSS Fastfood in Makati. He says, “it is so flavorful but it is so white. I have tried different versions of it before but they were not as white as theirs.”
There are two things Marvin looks for when it comes to savoring pancit—a really good tasting broth and well-cooked noodles. He considers the former as the soul of the dish, while it takes technique to perfect the latter. “Noodles are easier to cook than rice, but it takes a lot of skill to cook a really good pancit. Properly cooked pancit holds its form and texture even with prolonged exposure to heat.”
There are so many more noodle dishes in the Philippines that he’s longing to try, particularly those unique to Mindanao and in Quezon Province, where the pancit palabok uses spaghetti as noodles and has ground carabao meat. The pandemic might make it impossible to do that, but he can patiently wait. His hunger to eat and learn about Pinoy food seems to be endless anyway.