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The Most Expensive Pancit Molo I Ever Had

Reader, grant me the indulgence to take this moment of self-adulation.  Just this once, please.  Like most Negrenses, I am a Pancit Molo connoisseur.  We've had too many pancit molos in our lives simply by attending the various lunches and dinners in Negros or Iloilo wherein Pancit Molo was served as the indispensable prelude to a full Ilonggo/Negrense meal.  I've come to a point wherein the various tinges of flavor, the degree of how garlicky the soup is, or the thickness of the wonton wrapper which somehow lends to the consistency of the soup (whether watery or sticky), can draw me back to a particular household where I've had a similar serving of this Ilonggo favorite.

That's for taste.  For its description, Pancit Molo's uniqueness lies in the fact that Pancit Molo runs contrary to its name - containing no noodles at all despite the reference to pancit. What it has is chicken in a garlicky broth with pork and shrimp dumplings in wonton wrappers folded to resemble nun's headdresses.

I remember the time in the year 2000 when Daphne Oseña capped the news on Studio 23 with a segment called Video Postcard.  Daphne would go around the Philippines and give a 5 minute overview of the place and its peculiarities.  At one particular point in time, Daphne visited Molo, Iloilo in search of the restaurant with the best Pancit Molo.  Molo, Iloilo after all is the place where this popular soup emanated from.  Did she find it?  No.

I sent her an email to explain why that was so.  And so the story goes that at the turn of the century when the families in Iloilo migrated east to Negros Island to establish their fortunes in sugarcane, these families brought along with them their entire household entourage including the chief cook - and the treasured pancit molo recipe.

To this day, ask any Negrense where you can find the best pancit molo.  Nine out of ten, you will be pointed to a family household who serves great pancit molo in their dining room as cooked by their family kusinera.  Seldom, if not at all, will you be pointed to a restaurant.

Fast forward to today 2015.  I came from a meeting in Makati which lasted a bit one-ish.  My stomach was growling and while it would have been convenient for me to snap up a fastfood meal, I chanced upon a newfangled soup restaurant in Salcedo Village.  I glanced at the menu, saw the name Molo and drew my eyes to the price.  I whistled.  "Okay lang, there's always a first time", I said to myself. 

My soup came and it had a generous dose of "ulo sang molo" (wanton dumplings) as we would fondly call them at home.  What I noticed though was that it had too much cilantro in it.  If I had seen cilantro in its description on the menu, I would have thought twice about ordering it for cilantro is not native to a bowl of Pancit Molo.

More than enough cilantro to make chutney.
Perhaps a tinge of it would have done, if only to create a different fusion taste - but only a touch please.  I understand the attempt to create a different and distinct tingle on the palate but to actually have more than enough cilantro to activate a flushing of toxic metals from my body was not my idea.

So the time came that I had to pay the bill.  Surely, I could not recall paying this much ever for a bowl of pancit molo let alone to think about how it tasted vis a vis the price.

It was ok.  Place was nice.  My hunger was relieved.  To be fair, they never published anyway that this was going to be authentic Ilonggo pancit molo.  Thus the creative latitude to introduce cilantro is permitted. 

Then again, for those who are really looking for good pancit molo, just like in Negros or in Iloilo, the best pancit molo is always served in the dining room at home.

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