Nana Melody’s Oriental Kitchenette: Celebrating Pancit

Chami

Gone are the names such as New Life, Golden City, Golden Star, Southeast Asia, but the legacy of Sy Kau Teng lives on.  The late Kau Teng was a native of China who came to the Philippines to work as a cook at the People’s Lumber, met and married Felicidad Guevarra, an Ilocano, and set up his own Oriental Restaurant in downtown Laoag decades ago. Melody Co is one of the two children of Kau Teng who inherited their father’s cooking expertise and moved on to establish panciterias of their own.

To this day and age, no other restaurant in Ilocos can ever come close to Oriental Kitchenette’s lomi, chami, and kimlo. The recipes have been tweaked a little to suit the modern palate, like I couldn’t find anymore the authentic homemade kikiam and camaron, and innards, yet still basically the same legit Chinese style that keeps patrons go back again and again. The addition of ground pork rind (from traditional Ilocos chicharon aka bagnet) is the cherry on top in the enhanced or hybrid recipes. The chami I had was moist and piping hot, the noodles were chewy, the veggies obviously fresh and the toppings, plenteous.

Nana Melody's Oriental Kitchenette

Nana Melody’s Oriental Kitchenette in Laoag just moved to a new address on the corner of Gen. Luna and Zulueta Streets.

Nana Melody

– Nana Melody and her daughter Asuncion or Maan, who cooks just as well.

New Oriental Kitchenette

Besides old-time noodle favorites, habitues go to the Oriental Kitchenette for their super budget meals. At 30 pesos, one can have rice plus two viands (one meat and one vegetable) of their choice from the daily turo-turo counter.

Lomi

– Ilocos Norte mayors frequent the restaurant to chat while eating lomi, their bestseller.

Long Live Pancit! Long Live Oriental!

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2013

Noodle Fight: Batil Patung VS Pancit Cabagan

Tuguegarao is perhaps the city in the Philippines with the most number of panciterias (noodle houses). It’s like there is a panciteria on every corner. They serve either Batil Patung or Pancit Cabagan.

We asked insiders for the best places to have them.

Big Star’s Batil Patung

We had our Batil Patung at Big Star. Batil Patung is a Tuguegarao original. Batil means mix and patung means top or topping. The noodles in Batil Patung are the flat kind. The topping consists of sautéed beef or, I guess, carabeef, bean sprouts, sliced leeks, julienned carrots, crushed chicharon, meat loaf slices and fried egg. It comes with a cup of egg drop soup meant to be sipped or mixed with the pancit. Chopped red onions, calamansi and chili peppers are also served. The fifty-peso super we had was huge enough for two people.

Dok’s pancit Cabagan

It was actually my second time to try Dok’s Pancit Cabagan. Pancit Cabagan is said to have been introduced by a Chinese settler in the town of Cabagan in nearby Isabela province. It looks Chinese enough. The wet pancit has round noodles, julienned cabbage and carrots, boiled quail eggs and a generous heap of lechon de carajay slices. It comes with the sweeter white onions, calamansi and egg drop soup. The fifty-peso serving is supposed to be for one person but I shared mine with the dude.

My Verdict: I should have ordered one whole Pancit Cabagan for myself. I was craving for it the whole time on our way back to Laoag. The noodles, perfectly al dente, and the lechon was tasty with thin and extra crunchy skin. I liked it more than the first time I had it last year.

I’m not gonna have Batil Patung again. I didn’t like the “nuang” smell, which reminded me of a “beef” dish I had in a carinderia in Buguias, Benguet, many moons ago — one of my freaky road trip misadventures. To add, the noodles were dry and nasoprak (Help! What’s the English word for it?)… but then, the problem’s probably me because Batil Patung is really popular even to non-locals.

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Big Star Taft St. (beside Cagayan Colleges Tuguegarao), Tuguegarao, Cagayan
Dok’s Panciteria Pengue Highway, Tuguegarao, Cagayan
Photos by Blauearth Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED