According to Sagisag Kultura, habháb – popularly known in the context of pancit habháb (a savoury regional noodle dish from Quezon province) – is technically a method of eating without the use of hands. To paraphrase, it is ‘a way of eating in the manner of pigs and other animals, where one eats as if incredibly hungry that food is swallowed without chewing.’
‘However,’ it continues, ‘it is recognized as a unique way of eating the pancit of Lucban, Quezon.’
What a way to describe the sheer need of tipping these pork, shrimp and vegetable studded noodles straight into one’s mouth!
Pancit habháb, also called pancit Lucban, is served atop a banana leaf, scored into squares the size of your palm. No utensils are required to consume pancit habháb the way locals do; simply add a few dashes of cane vinegar to your noodle-heaped leaf, and let one hand support the leaf’s bulk weight while you carefully (or conversely, greedily) nudge the pancit with its overflow of toppings into your gaping maw.
Interpreting the history of pancit habháb
What follows below is an early interpretation I had on the history of pancit habháb, also applicable to other types of regional Philippine pancit – I hope to find sources I can cite and share!
Traditionally, this type of pancit was likely made in large batches either at home or in carinderia kitchens, where multiple stoves were used by cooks to prepare a variety of everyday dishes for the carinderia’s storefront (often, open-air diners on busy roadsides or local tricycle/jeepney transit stops). Cooks would pile steaming heaps of pancit habháb onto a bilao (woven tray) lined with whole banana leaves; then, these would either be sold in a carinderia, turo-turo, or through a maglalako – neighbourhood snack vendors who parade their wares on foot, inevitably becoming an integral part of Filipino communities.
Primary information translated from the wonderful community behind Sagisag Kultura, a cultural research and awareness project by the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).