Following the success of their instant mami, Monde Nissin launched Lucky Me! Pancit Canton in 1991. It was the first dry stir-fried pouched noodles in the Philippines, containing one block of dried noodles, oil, soy sauce, and seasoning powder. It dominated the local market; and soon enough, it became a staple in every Filipino household. It’s enjoyed either as merienda, or a full-blown meal with ulam. (Heck, sometimes it even becomes the ulam.) We all grew up favoring one flavor over the other. But it’s time to get real. Here’s our definitive ranking of the five classic variants, based on how close it is to the flavor it’s meant to be.
5. Extra Hot Chili
As you’d expect, Extra Hot Chili had the reddest oil and seasoning combo. However, it didn’t reach a level of heat deserving of its “extra” descriptor. “I’d advertise it as just… hot,” a member of the team commented. We’d even argue that the Chili-Mansi was spicier. (And we couldn’t believe we were such cowards to eat this as kids. It wasn’t even that bad.)
It was right for Lucky Me! to have named this “Chili-Mansi” instead of “Kalaman-Sili.” Although you do get both flavors, the heat overpowers the calamansi—to the point that you don’t even taste the citrus at all. We think this is because the oil and the powder are more chili-forward; so the only calamansi part is really the yellowish (from the calamansi extract) oil. One member of the team shared that when she was younger, she’d mix one pack of Chili-Mansi and another of plain Kalamansi to get the right balance. That would’ve been deserving of the name.
The Original flavor stands in very middle ground. We don’t love it enough to give it top marks, but we don’t hate it at all for it to rank at the bottom. It tastes “normal,” “like a bouillon cube.” It’s salty, but at just the right amount to complement the noodles. We’d have this on days when we’re in the mood for pancit canton, but not up to choosing flavors.
A collective childhood favorite of the Pepper team, Kalamansi comes with the same yellowish oil as Chili-Mansi’s and the same white seasoning as the Original’s. It didn’t taste as calamansi-ish as we remembered, but it does have a general fruitiness to it. You do get a hint of calamansi at the end, though.
1. Sweet & spicy
To our surprise, the flavor we rarely had as kids was the one we liked the most. (Yes, we’d been missing out, apparently.) Sweet & Spicy lived up to its name. As a member of the team put it, “it’s actually sweet… and it’s actually spicy.” It reminded us of lo mein; and we’d go as far as saying that it tasted like something you’d get out of a restaurant (or at least food court stall Chin’s Express). That said, some members of the team had reservations, because it didn’t taste like pancit canton—in a purist sense, that is. Nonetheless, we’d eat it for merienda everyday.
Bonus: All flavors
We’ll admit, it was pretty hard to pick out a favorite in this taste test. Every flavor had its pros and cons. So, as an experiment, we tried mixing it all together. If you’re feeding enough people to merit five packs of Lucky Me! Pancit Canton, we encourage you to try doing this. It wouldn’t have ranked number one in our list anyway, but hey, it’s worth a try.