Pancit palabok is a classic Filipino rice noodle dish with an savoury bright orange sauce made with pork, shrimp and fish flakes and is topped with pork rinds and hard-boiled eggs. This dish is adapted from the Chinese cuisine which greatly influenced the use of noodles in Filipino cooking.
The term Pancit Palabok has been used interchangeably with Pancit Malabon due to its almost similar features. The main difference between the two lies in the thickness of the noodles, wherein a pancit palabok uses thin rice noodles which is also called bihon, while pancit malabon uses thicker rice noodles. There is really no harm in using thicker rice noodles for a pancit palabok as one prefers it.
With the mix of pork and seafood flavors in the pancit palabok sauce, this dish gives you different layers of flavor. Pancit palabok is mouth-watering, savoury and tasty. It is commonly eaten as a merienda but can also be enjoyed as a full meal as this dish is a carbohydrate-rich one.
My grandma is a palabok fan so much that she always look for it whenever we go to literally any restaurant. Her birthday came and we wanted to have a simple family celebration dinner for her. It was automatic for us to order her a large bilao of palabok every year for her birthday. She has a favorite restaurant where she always order that bilao of pancit palabok.
Unfortunately a few weeks before her birthday, the restaurant shut down. I can still remember how sad she was knowing this. And suddenly she doesn’t want to celebrate her birthday. I and my mom decided to learn the recipe to somehow ease her sadness. We tried cooking pancit palabok at our home and allow my granda to taste what we did and help us modify how to make it better. We did different batches of test samples for our pancit palabok. I remember not soaking the noodles first before using which made the noodles longer to cook. There were also times that the sauce was too liquid and we had to prolong the boiling process for it to evaporate, but it resulted to the ground pork and other components of the sauce to melt in the sauce. We practiced a lot in order to achieve the best pancit palabok for the best granma in town.
And now, we always celebrate her birthday with our homemade pancit palabok which my grandma described as “restaurant quality palabok”. And since we have practiced this dish for many times now, we have included the pancit palabok as a main dish to our family reunion for our other relatives to have a taste of this sumptuous dish.
HOW TO MAKE PANCIT PALABOK
Palabok Noodles is the main ingredient of the pancit palabok. Although there has been a debate whether a pancit palabok uses thin or thick noodles, these noodles were made using rice flour and gives that white, glassy and shiny look. The noodles take up 60 to 70 percent of the dish. Once small inconvenience brought by the noodles could ruin the whole dish. It is important that the pancit palabok noodles are well-cooked. In this recipe, I used the store-bought thick rice noodles.
To prepare your rice noodles, soak it in warm water for at least 6 hours. Rice noodles are actually complicated. By just boiling the noodles might make them crunchy while over boiling might make them too mushy. To achieve the right texture for the rice noodles, it is important to soak the noodles to allow them to initially soften. Spend 6 hours of soaking the noodles before cooking the pancit palabok. Once softened, drain the noodles using a colander or a strainer and set it aside.
The palabok sauce is the defining ingredient of the pancit palabok. How the dish would taste would be based on the flavors lying on this bright orange sauce. Some people prefer to mix the noodles and the sauce during cooking so that the taste of the sauce will sip into the noodles while some prefer to put the sauce on top of the noodles as they eat. Regardless of how people want to eat their pancit palabok, there is a great responsibility for the sauce to taste delicious for the people to want for more.
Pancit Palabok is a treat for both seafood and pork lovers. The dominant flavors of the pancit palabok sauce comes from the shrimp and pork. The basic elements of a palabok sauce includes shrimp, ground pork, chicharon and fish flakes. In this recipe, all of the basic elements and more flavorful ingredients will be used.
The bright orange color of the pancit palabok sauce came from the extraction of red color from the annatto seeds. There are different known ways on how to extract the color from the annatto seeds like soaking them in hot water, boiling them or frying them in oil. In this recipe, the annatto seeds were soaked in 1 cup water and stirred until the color appears. You can skip this step and still achieve the bright orange color of the sauce in a hassle-free way by using annatto powder or red food color which is available in the market.
To prepare for the other components of the pancit palabok sauce, prepare the tinapa, pork rinds or chicharon and toasted peanuts. Tinapa is the most commonly used fish for pancit palabok due to its rich seafood taste. Prepare the tinapa by removing its scales and the bones. Flake the fish meat and set it aside. You could use a pre-flaked tinapa or tinapa powder if you want to skip this step. Chicharon or the pork rinds are crispy pieces of pork skin fat which adds savoury pork taste. Crush the chicharon using a mortar and pestle and then set aside. Toasted peanuts are not commonly used in pancit palabok sauces but it actually adds a delightful taste in the sauce. Crush the toasted peanuts using a mortar and pestle and set it aside. After those ingredients were prepared, it is not time to go to the stove.
Heat a large sauce pan. Boil the pork in little water under medium heat and keep cooking until the liquid dries up. The oil from the pork will continue to fry it. Slightly move the ground pork on one side of the pan to give some space. Add some oil in the pan and saute the garlic and onion. Mix the ground pork with the garlic and onion and continue sautéing. You may now add the rest of the ingredients starting with the tinapa flakes, hibe or dried small shrimps, crushed chicharon and crushed peanuts. Remember to saute and stir the components of the pan everytime you add a new ingredient to ensure that the ingredients are well-distributed and is cooked. Add a shrimp broth cube and crush it in the pan. Mix the ingredients well. Season with ground black pepper. During this stage, you may reserve some of this mixture to be used as toppings for later. Proceed with the sauce by adding the annatto extract. Add enough water that would cook the soaked noodles you prepared. Stir gently and taste. Add the necessary seasonings. When you are satisfied with the taste of the sauce, add in your soaked rice noodles. Make sure that the sauce covers all the noodles. Cook until the sauce dries up. Continue cooking until the noodles are tender. The best way to know whether the noodles are done is by tasting it. If the noodles are not yet tender, add more water. When done, add some fresh chopped spring onions and stir it with the noodles. Transfer your freshly cooked pancit palabok in a bilao or any container and add the recommended toppings.
The goal of the toppings is to make food more appealing and appetizing. Since the main colors you can see in a pancit palabok is orange and white, it is recommended to use toppings to decorate the pancit palabok and also to enhance the overall flavor of the dish. Some of the usual toppings added to a pancit palabok can range from simple ingredients like ground chicharon/pork rinds, ground peanuts, spring onions, fried garlic and boiled eggs to a much fancier ingredients like shrimp, mussels and bacon bits.
In this recipe the recommended toppings were the simple ones. Although simple, the crispyness of the toasted peanuts, chicharon compliments the softness of the sauce and noodles. Spring onions and boiled eggs adds new colors which are pleasing to the eyes.
Calamansi is usually given as a condiment for pancit palabok. Since the pancit palabok has a lot of pork in it, which means fat, the acid from the calamansi can counteract the oily feeling brought about by the fat. The sour taste of the calamansi also compliments the saltiness of the tinapa flakes and crushed chicharon. It can also add another layer of flavor.
Pancit PalabokCourse: Noodle Recipes
500 grams palabok noodles
1/3 cup annatto seeds (or orange food color)
1 cup hot water
5 to 6 pieces tinapa
½ cup toasted peanuts (optional)
1 cup chicharon or pork rinds
300 grams ground pork
½ cup water
3 tablespoons Hibe or dried shrimps
1 shrimp broth cube
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 cups water
1/3 cup spring onions, minced
- Recommended toppings
Reserved cooked meat
Hard boiled eggs, sliced
- Soak the palabok noodles in water for at least 6 hours to soften. When softened, loosen the noodles up. Drain the noodles and set aside.
- If you are using annatto seeds, place them in a small bowl and add 1 cup of hot water. Stir to extract the color. Strain to separate the seeds. Set aside.
- Remove the scales of tinapa. Flake the meat and remove the bones. You may use pre-flaked tinapa or tinapa powder. Set aside.
- Crush the toasted peanuts into crumbs using mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- Crush the chicharon/pork rind pieces into crumbs using mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- In a large pan, boil the ground pork in ½ cup water under medium heat. Continue cooking until the water dries up. During this stage, the oil from the pork is rendered. Cook the ground pork until light brown.
- Slightly move the ground pork to one side of the pan. Add more oil into the pan and then saute the onions and garlic. Mix the components of the pan and saute them together. Add the tinapa flakes followed by the hibe or dried shrimps. Saute for a few minutes until the tinapa and the hibe is slightly cooked.
- Add the crushed chicharon, crushed peanuts and then saute.
- Add 1 shrimp broth cube and ground black pepper into the pan. Crush the broth cube and saute until the broth cube is well-blended with the other ingredients. [Optional] Reserve some cooked meat for toppings.
- Add the annatto extract. Add enough water to cook the palabok noodles. Stir and let it boil. Add salt or fish sauce to taste. Add the pre-soaked palabok noodles. Stir until the sauce fully covers the noodles. Continue cooking until the noodles are tender and the sauce dries up completely. Stir in between to cook evenly. As the sauce dries up, add more water if the noodles are still not cooked.
- Add 1/3 cup minced spring onions and stir it into the noodles until well-blended.
- Transfer the pancit palabok to a large bowl or container. Add the prepared toppings.
- Serve hot and enjoy.