Pancit Molo

Centuries ago in Iloilo, it is told that when Moro (Muslim) pirates would come to pillage this port city, Chinese residents, known to replace the letter “R” with “L”, would warn the people by shouting, “Molo! Molo!” The word stuck and it became the name of the place, Molo, one of the districts of Iloilo, and home of the Pancit Molo.

A Negrense favorite, the Pancit Molo is a soup with dumplings, popularly called molo balls.

Fast forward to the mid-19th Century.  Another story is told that when Iloilo was opened to international trade in 1855, British Vice Consul Nicholas Loney was assigned there. As a businessman, Loney shipped spices to England and his backload was cotton. This displaced the local weaving industry in Iloilo. Long story short, Loney engaged them to start the sugar industry in Negros. Through his company, Loney & Kerr Co., he provided them loans as capital for farming activities and to purchase equipment from Europe. As more Iloilo residents migrated to Negros, they brought with them their heritage. That’s how Pancit Molo came to town.

Although it carries the name pancit, the Filipino word for noodles, the Pancit Molo has none. But the wrapper of the molo ball, the star of the dish, is made from the same ingredients as the noodle pancit.

How to make good molo ball dumplings is a culinary skill learned through generations.

Pancit Molo is considered comfort food. One can have it as part of a meal or an incredible snack either on a sunny or rainy day. Boiled in a soup stock flavored with shrimp heads and peelings, the molo wrapper is filled with ground chicken, pork, or shrimp, or a combination of any two of these, or all three, depending on what one fancies.

Pancit Molo has the right balance of flavors, from the soup stock, to the molo balls, to the garlic and the green onions. The finishing touch to make this dish perfect is the amount of spring onions and fried garlic you use as garnish. While no doubt these are good for your immune system, it is the crunch and punch that fans crave for.

The molo ball filling is made from chicken, pork, and shrimp meat folded into the molo wrapper.

The preparation of Pancit Molo could differ from one household to another, with the molo ball filling and soup stock made a hundred and one ways. Many families have heirloom recipes, replete with secret cooking techniques, like how to make the wrapper thin. These are passed on from generation to generation, celebrating a family dish that they can certainly be proud of.

Beyond great taste, there is one more reason why Negrenses so easily embraced the Pancit Molo. This soup dish is a “mahjong merienda fare” classic. The “sessions” run for hours, starting right after lunch. Since some mahjong players don’t want to take a break because they’re either on a winning streak or need to continue playing to win back losses, snacks or “merienda” are served on side tables. Pancit Molo, with biscocho (twice-baked bread that is usually coated with butter or sugar), is a welcoming nourishment for these table athletes.

An essential ingredient to a good Pancit Molo is shrimp liquid extract, which gives the dish its distinct flavor.

Food has become part of the identity of a community. Even though Pancit Molo may have come from the Chinese through Iloilo, we have localized it through time, made it our own and is now a part of Negrense culinary heritage.

Sit back and discover this exceptionally good food that gives you the comfort and knowledge of a memorable past and an extraordinary heritage.

Negrense /neg-REN-se/ n. the people of Negros Island in the Philippines. The island is divided into two provinces, Negros Oriental to the east and Negros Occidental to the west.

Molo Ball Filling Ingredients:

½  breast chicken
Water to make 4 cups of chicken broth
¼  kg. ground pork
10 medium - size shrimps, peeled, deveined, and diced. Reserve heads and peelings for soup stock.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk spring onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
½  tsp. ground pepper
1 egg, beaten

Molo Ball Filling Preparation:

Boil the breast chicken with enough water to make 4 cups of chicken broth. Set aside the chicken broth.
Shred the cooked chicken and divide into 2. Half of the shredded chicken will be used in the molo ball filling, half will be added to the broth.
Mix ground pork, half of the shredded chicken breast, diced shrimps, onions, garlic, and spring onions.
Add salt, pepper and egg. Set aside filling.

Molo Ball Ingredients:

1 pack molo wrapper.

Molo ball filling.

Additional molo wrapper, cut into 1cm. strips.

Molo Ball Preparation:

Using a rolling pin, roll out the molo ball wrappers to your desired thinness. Flour the rolling pin so wrappers do not stick and tear.
Put a little of the filling into the center of the molo wrapper.
Fold the wrapper by making the ends of the wrapper meet then pinch to seal. If needed, make an egg wash and brush it on the wrapper ends to seal.
Repeat until all fillings are wrapped. Set molo balls aside.

Shrimp Stock Ingredients:

Heads and peelings from 10 medium-size shrimps

2 tsps. oil

4 cups water, use room temperature

Shrimp Stock Preparation:
Sauté the shrimp heads and peelings in oil.
Then add water. This aids in the extraction of the flavor.
Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Using a fine sieve, strain stock to discard shells and peelings. Set aside 2 cups shrimp stock.

Pancit Molo Ingredients:

2 tsps. cooking oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups shrimp stock
Molo balls
Molo wrapper strips
Half of the shredded chicken
Salt and pepper
Fried garlic for garnish
Spring onions, chopped, for garnish

Pancit Molo Procedure:

    1. Heat oil in a pot and sauté the garlic.
    2. Add the onion.
    3. Add the chicken broth.
    4. Add the shrimp stock. Let it boil.
    5. Once boiling, drop the molo balls one by one.
    6. Drop the molo wrapper strips
    7. Drop the shredded chicken.
    8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    9. Cook for 5 more minutes or until molo balls are done.
    10. Serve hot. Garnish with fried garlic and spring onions.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Recipe shared by Nanay Lucita Divino Tonato
77 years old
Head cook of the Velez-Gamban and Locsin-Gamboa families

Nanay Luz has been cooking family recipes that have been passed on for generations. She learned how to cook from her mother at a young age and became proficient with some of the heirloom recipes of the families she worked with.

Text by: Massah Gonzales-Gamboa
Photography by: Project Twenty Six
Food Styling by: David Dadivas

A good molo ball dumpling has a thin but secure wrapping which does not overwhelm the taste of the filling.

The dish is a favorite merienda for mahjong.

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