Mai fun, no fun

It’s been a while since pancit (Filipino version of stir-fry noodles) has made it into our dinner rotation. Blessings to whomever had the brilliant idea to mass market freshly roasted rotisserie chickens. With 4 kids in tow and a busy schedule, it has saved me on several occasions. Not to mention, it’s a GREAT shortcut. So with a chicken in my cart, I grab some of my favorite veggies: sugar snap peas, pea pods, red bell peppers. Now no two Filipino families seem to make the same recipe for pancit – which literally means “noodles” in Filipino cooking. From what I could gather from my family is that it’s similar to fried rice, use whatever you have in your refrigerator as your added ingredients to your noodles. For example, I love adding bean sprouts too, but I know it’s not a traditional item added to this dish. I add them anyway. Walking down my local Fry’s grocer I noticed that the international food section doesn’t seem to have any pancit noodles – the yellow ones that look like chow mein but are thinner and flatter and evidently, more forgiving when working with them. Despite the lack of selection, I do happen to see that they at least have mai fun rice noodles. These are often used in Chinese cooking in a dish you probably know as Singapore noodles. While these noodles are very popular, I have one little worry in the back of my mind… I’m thinking that hopefully I cook it right and that these seemingly delicate, cellophane noodles don’t turn to slime. Oh, and just for variety, I went ahead and picked up some chow mein noodles to blend in. Little did I know that my selections would be my teach me a lesson or two!

Lesson #1: Ok, mai fun, yes, no fun when it comes to photographing them. To the naked eye, it’s a delicate yarning of opaque white noodles, which I thought would be an interesting texture to try and capture. My biggest challenge? Well, capturing a shot that wasn’t, simply put, a big white blob. Not to mention, waning afternoon light into the evening was placing undue pressure on me to get a shot, ANY shot that didn’t resemble a glowing ghost mound on my plate. In the end I kept circling my subject, clicking the shutter at varying angles until I got what I was looking for. I switched also from my fixed focus 50mm lens to my macro lens. I think perhaps that the 50mm was letting in too much light and overexposing the subject, whereas my macro didn’t quite yield that same result. Not sure why. I’ll have to dig into the technical aspects of my camera lenses at another time. I also realized that based on the configuration of my kitchen, my stainless steel fridge acted as a nice reflector to casting subtle light onto my subject. Neat little BoNus!
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Lesson #2: Chow mein… no, it’s not the noodle I hoped it would be. Yes, I over did it. I hit it with hot water, thinking that I could just soften them up enough and then toss them in to the pan to be fried. Somehow, I soaked it too long and the noodles at the bottom became one glutinous mess! Ugh. So thinking that I could fix it by breaking it up and tossing them in with the rice noodles…. Uh… well it nearly ruined my fine looking rice noodles as they seemed to be attracted to these yellow “gooey” balls of chow mein. I plucked out what I could. It left my dish with a few little clumps among my otherwise harmonious blend of stir-fried veggies, shredded rotisserie chicken and sea of, yes, non-slimy rice noodles. Hardly noticeable according to my eager eaters – who LOVE stir-fried anything. When I think back about this little project, I’ll remember #1: they (the sampling crew) thought that my little mishap was scrambled eggs in the dish, #2: while nothing was left in the wok, I did get comments that while it was good it simply wasn’t what Lola (grandmother) makes. Oh well! And finally #3: the dish in retrospect tasted mighty fine, just not very food photogenic!

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