Pancit Palabok is a delicious Filipino noodle dish topped with shrimp gravy, shrimp, smoked fish flakes, pork cracklings, and eggs. Hearty and savory, it's perfect as a light meal or anytime snack.
Pancit palabok is yet another example of Filipino's affinity for noodle dishes.
However, unlike the stir-fried bihon guisado or the broth-filled sotanghon soup, pancit palabok is smothered in a flavorful shrimp sauce and topped with a delectable mishmash of smoked fish flakes, crushed pork cracklings, crisp bacon, boiled shrimp, fried garlic bits, hard-boiled eggs, and green onions.
The above are my preferred toppings but feel free to choose your own mix-ins. Steamed squid, mussels, fried tofu cubes, ground pork, crispy fried shallots and chopped lechon kawali are just some of the delicious ways you can kick things up.
As you can see from the recipe below, making this noodle dish can be a very elaborate process what with the myriad of ingredients. I suggest preparing the toppings first as you will need the rendered fat from the bacon, the oil used in frying garlic, and the liquid used in cooking the shrimps to bring an extra depth of flavor to the sauce.
It is customary to pre-mix the noodles, sauce, and toppings before serving the Pancit palabok for a party but although still flavorful, I find it a little less appetizing when it's dried out and barely warm.
The way I serve it for a crowd, I keep the palabok sauce continuously heated in a crockpot. I set the various toppings individually in small serving containers and place the cooked rice noodles on a large platter with a chafing dish filled with hot water alongside it on the buffet table. The guests can then use a noodle strainer (this is an affiliate link) to briefly dip (takes but a few seconds as they're already cooked) the noodles in the hot water to reheat and pile on the shrimp sauce and toppings as they like.
I have to admit, this method involves a bit more work and the queue can get really crazy around the buffet table but the guests do appreciate the novelty of pulling together their own plate of palabok. Not only is the pancit fresh and hot, bonus points for being able to pick their own choice of toppings!
- 1 package (8 ounces) rice noodles
For the sauce
- shrimp heads ( reserved from peeling the shrimp)
- 5 cups water
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons annatto seeds
- ⅓ cup flour
- 2 pieces shrimp bouillon
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Toppings
- ½ pound shrimp
- canola oil
- ½ pound pork belly, diced
- 8 ounces firm tofu
- ½ cup tinapa flakes
- 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 cup pork cracklings (chicharon), crushed
- 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and quartered
- ¼ cup green onions, chopped
- calamansi or lemon, cut into wedges
- In a large bowl, soak rice noodles in water for about 1 to 2 minutes or just until loosened. Drain well.
- In a pot over medium heat, bring about 6 cups water to a brisk boil. Add noodles and cook for about 1 minute. Drain well.
- Place noodles onto serving plates. Spoon sauce over noodles.
- Top with shrimp, chicharon, fried pork, crispy tofu, tinapa flakes, hardboiled eggs, toasted garlic bits, and green onions. Serve with calamansi wedges.
For the Toppings
- Peel shrimp, leaving tail intact. Reserve shrimp heads. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Place shrimp in a fine-mesh sieve and dip in the boiling water until the shrimp change color. Remove from the pot and set aside. Reserve liquid.
- In a skillet over medium heat, add pork belly and cook, stirring occasionally, it releases oil. Continue to cook until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
- Drain tofu from packing liquid and wrap with paper towels to rid of extra moisture. Cut into ¼-inch cubes. In a wide pan, heat about 1-inch deep of oil. Add tofu and deep-fry until golden brown and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove from, and set aside.
- In a pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add tinapa flakes and cook, stirring regularly, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In a small pan over low heat, heat about ¼ cup oil. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned and crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove toasted garlic and drain on paper towels. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the garlic oil.
For the Sauce
- With a knife, coarsely chop reserved shrimp heads.
- In a pot over medium heat, combine shrimp heads and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises on top. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes to extract flavor. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain liquid and discard shrimp solids. Reserve 5 cups of the stock.
- In a saucepot over medium heat, heat ¼ cup canola oil. Add 2 tablespoons of annatto seeds and cook, stirring regularly, until oil is infused with deep-orange color. With a slotted spoon, remove seeds and discard.
- Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute or until smooth.
- Slowly add shrimp stock, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.
- Add shrimp bouillon and stir until dissolved.
- Cook, stirring regularly, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.