While it’s believed that pancit was brought to the Philippines by Chinese merchants, another noodle favorite—mami—is actually a local invention. In 1918, a man named Ma Mon Luk moved to the Philippines. He decided to sell noodles to earn money. But to distinguish himself from the pancit vendors, he sold his noodles with chicken broth; and called it gupit, describing how he cuts the noodles before serving. He hawked it along the streets of Manila using a pingga (a carrying pole similar to that used by taho vendors) carrying two large metal cans.
Soon enough, several other mami vendors popped up—including Masuki owner and head of kitchen Ciara Gigante’s grandfather, John Ma. The patriarch moved from Hong Kong to open his own mamihan; and he brought along with him a unique noodle-making technique.
Jook Sing Mein: A Centuries-old Noodle-Making Technique
Jook sing mein is a type of noodle that originated from Cantonese cuisine; and later on became popular in Hong Kong. Translating to “bamboo noodles,” it’s made with a kneading technique that uses a large bamboo pole. The noodle-maker lifts himself up onto the pole—similar to how one would on a seesaw—then jumps up and down to apply pressure onto the dough. This method helps really activate the gluten in the dough, resulting in springy, gristly (and arguably tastier) noodles.
The jook sing mein-making technique is a dying art. Nowadays, there are only a handful of noodle shops in Hong Kong who continue to practice the bamboo seesaw way. Lucky for us, our very own Masuki keeps the tradition alive. Ciara walks us through their noodle-making process, and why it was important for them to keep making their noodles the same way her great-grandfather did when they opened.
Step 1: Mixing
It all starts with the dough. Masuki’s noodles are made with eggs, water, flour, and salt. It’s your typical dough mixture, but they tweak the proportions to reach a chewy texture that’s unique to the restaurant. The noodle-maker combines the ingredients in a large metal vat, then mixes everything by hand.
Step 2: Kneading
When the dough is mixed enough, the noodle-maker drops it onto a large wooden block table. He begins to knead it with his hands, just enough to thoroughly incorporate all the elements. Then, the fun part begins. He takes a large wooden pole—the same one they’ve used ever since, brought back from Hong Kong—then positions it onto the dough. He pounds it a few times to flatten it a bit. After that, he dangles one leg on the pole, then begins to hop, moving from one end of the dough to the other.
He looks like he’s riding a horse, hence the term “pangangabayo,” which they use to describe the method locally. When the noodle-maker does it, it looks really easy. But in reality, it requires a lot of strength and energy. One jook sing mein-maker in Hong Kong even likens the activity to a long run.
Step 3: Folding and Flattening
After kneading, the noodle-maker folds the dough, then runs it to a machine that flattens it (just like a pasta maker). This process is repeated several times until the dough gets to a specific thickness. According to Ciara, the noodle-maker has been doing this for so long, that he can tell when the dough is ready just by sight and touch.
Step 4: cutting
The noodle-maker then transfers the dough for cutting. It goes through a machine that turns it into individual strings of noodles. It falls at a rapid speed onto large bamboo plates, tossed occasionally so it won’t stick.
Step 5: Cooking
Once all of the dough is cut, the noodles are cooked in giant woks of boiling water. It only takes a few seconds, accounting for the time the noodles will spend later in a hot soup when served. They’re then put back onto the bamboo plates, where they’re oiled to keep them apart.
Step 6: drying
The noodles are allowed to cool in front of giant electric fans. After that, they’re ready to be served; or they’re kept in the kitchen storage. In the case of the latter, the noodles are stored for a maximum of two days. (But Ciara shares that they rarely stay that long there.)
Masuki makes their noodles fresh daily. It’s done in their main kitchen at the restaurant’s Binondo branch, then transported to their different outlets. They also do the same with their siopao, siomai, and their signature Masuki sauce.
Ciara explains that, despite the available technology, they’ll always opt to make everything the traditional way. Aside from quality control, doing this ensures that their regulars enjoy Masuki’s specialties the same way they have for the past half-century. “They’ll know if we change anything.”
That said, Ciara acknowledges how ingredients can change over time. So she emphasizes how Masuki’s investment is always its people, and the skills they bring to the table. Their pangangabayo technique was taught by her grandfather to his apprentices, and they later on trained the restaurant’s noodle-makers today. And that will continue in the years to come.
A Binondo institution that makes fresh noodles using traditional techniques.