Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rosy's Pancit Malabon - The Gold Standard

Pancit Malabon is one of the few things that I could eat everyday and one of the things I have a regular craving for. I grew up in Malabon when it was still called Malabon, Rizal and my eating habits and food preferences are rooted in that place.
Malabon City as it is known today is a far cry from what it was in the 60's and 70's but food wise, it has remained quite unchanged.
So, I can still get sapin sapin from Dolor's, que kiam and broas from Betsy's, Rufina patis, tinapang bangus ... most of the things I enjoyed while growing up.
But my utmost favorite is pancit Malabon and when it comes to this dish, there is only one place that brings back that sense of place and that is Rosy's Pancit Malabon.
Owned and still run by the Pacheco sisters, Rosy's in the 60s was already a Malabon landmark. It started as a small simple eatery in Cuatro Cantos and famous people flocked to it for take-out bilaos of pancit. Rosy's fans included then First Lady Imelda Marcos, Susan Roces and FPJ, writer Julie Yap Daza and other celebrity name-droppeables.
We would go to Rosy's for a mid afternoon snack and find a queue of "out-of-towners". We knew they were not from Malabon because they came in cars and not on foot or by "stainless" jeep.
What made Rosy's so special and so different from the rest, when you could find pancit malabon in practically every corner? I specially liked Rosy's because the sauce to noodle ratio was just right -- each noodle strand coated with the sauce but never cloying or soggy. It was perfectly seasoned, didn't need any patis or calamansi.
As early as then, Rosy's knew the importance of food styling. Each bowl of pancit malabon would come perfectly arranged and topped with the plumpest, pinkest shrimp, bright green crunchy pechay baguio, fat oysters, flecks of roasted garlic, tender julienned pork. It looked just as good as it tasted.
In the 80s, Rosy's decided to import the pancit malabon to the big city and they opened a branch at Philtrade along Roxas Boulevard.
Philtrade then was spanking new, with lots of restaurants, exhibit and trade halls. More than twenty years later, it has gone to seed. The restaurants and exhibit and training centers are gone and in their place is a flea market of dubious "antiques" -- wooden retablos, santos, china cabinets, odds and ends.
Rosy's still exists though -- at the end of Philtrade there is a rather rundown un-airconditioned hall where the best pancit malabon this side of the world is still cooked and sold every day.
Lunchtime finds Rosy's busy with regulars who obviously love the food. I've had pancit malabon sitting next to senators, mayors, generals, politicians ...
Like its main store in Malabon, it's a very simple and humble place -- the Pacheco sisters still rule over the kitchen. Now, they have some of their next generation relatives helping out.
Aside from just pancit malabon, they have "escaparates" of home cooked viands -- ginataang labong, dinuguan, bopis, sinigang, paksiw and tochong bangus, misua with bola bola, okoy -- all the things you used to eat at home but are now too busy to cook yourself. But all these of course pale in comparison to the real star ... that bowl of yellow golden yumminess called pancit malabon.
I make the trek to Rosy's as often as I can -- when the craving for a taste of Malabon and childhood is just too much to bear. Who says you can't go home again?