On my 2nd day in Iloilo, I have already eaten their Ilonggo originals: the La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo. Time to explore the unknown. Right at the middle of downtown Iloilo proper is an old commercial district at the street of Calle Real or what is now known as J.M.Basa St. Calle Real is the “Escolta of Iloilo”. One cannot discount the similarities of these two places being populated by old rustic American-era buildings.
One of the pioneer establishments in this area that still exists today is Kong Kee Restaurant. This Chinese restaurant has acquired its own Filipinized identity in its ambiance and menu after serving generations and generations of Ilonggo customers. While they are also known for their siopao just like the nearby Roberto’s, Kong Kee is also well-known for their various pancit dishes including their uniquely named creation: Pancit Sun Yat Sen. Upon getting myself a seat, I immediately asked the waitress, about this dish. The waitress, who was having difficulty speaking in Filipino or Tagalog cannot seemed to explain the name, she just described it as “Pancit Canton“. Her answer made me even more intrigued as “Pancit Canton” is also part of their menu. Sparing her of more trouble conversing in Filipino, I just placed her my “half” order of it, which is good for 2 persons worth Php.85.00. “Googling” on Asian history, who is Sun Yat Sen again? Dr. Sun is considered to be the father of modern China as he became the first president of the Republic of China among his other contributions. Apparently it is only his name given to this dish with no direct link to the man.
Once served, I am immediately overwhelmed by the generous toppings of huge vegetable chunks and meats on top of yellow noodles. There is cabbage, pork, meatballs, carrots and a new pancit ingredient for me; patola. Sprinkled with some green onions and served with the usual calamansi on the side, I mixed everything. The vegetables are undoubtedly fresh but the overall taste of the dish is a little too bland for me and the noodle’s yellow food color is a little too overpowering as it also disperses on the sauce. Apparently it is what differentiates Pancit Sun Yat Sen with Pancit Canton – huge cuts of vegetables and meatballs topped on yellow fried noodles.
Just a little off J.M. Basa St. is another restaurant serving Pancit Sun Yat Sen – The Summer House. This restaurant occupies the first floor of Iloilo Midtown Hotel. While they also have a lot of dishes and pancit varieties in their menu, I also ordered their Sun Yat Sen. Just like Kong Kee‘s, theirs is also generously topped with huge slices of vegetables, also with meatballs but with added slivers of Chinese ham, battered pork slices and a little saucier. Their noodles, which is completely hidden under its blanket of toppings is remarkably white in color and in thinner strands than that of Kong Kee‘s. At Php.185 for the “medium” serving (they do not have a small order of it), it is pricier but equivalently superior in taste over the original – Kong Kee.
This Sun Yat Sen experience of the Pancit King proves that the original is not necessarily the best. Emerging contenders, in this case the Summer House, was able to do a better rendition of the dish to also make a name for themselves. In this instance, the historically established Kong Kee should also compete for its identity especially for one of the dishes they became famous for.