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Pancit Palabok
Roots

Seafood plays a big role in the Filipino islander diet and this glass noodle dish is the perfect way of displaying the best of the sea. The word “pancit”, meaning noodles in Tagalog, is derived from the phrase “pian e sit” meaning “conveniently-cooked food” in the southeastern Chinese language, Hokkien. The reason for this is due to Chinese immigration into the Philippines, where Chinese traders opened up Panciterias selling ready-to-eat noodles to those in search of a quick meal.

Techniques

Stock making - this transferrable skill allows you to take a base such as shrimp shells, chicken bones or vegetable trimmings, and extract as much flavour as you can to create a sauce or broth.

Filipino flavour pairings - there is a variety of different competing flavours in this dish, so Rex will be teaching you how to successfully marry complimentary ingredients to create a dish greater than the sum of its parts.

Plating - this dish can be a real showstopper when care is taken to present it well. Given the number of toppings, you need to make sure that each is visible so as to produce an appealing looking plate.

Ingredients
Serving Size
Serves: 2-3

Shrimp Stock:

  • 450g or ~16 pieces of peeled prawns
  • 70g pancetta (or bacon)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 30g ginger
  • 3 tbsp achuete/annatto oil
  • 800 ml chicken stock

Palabok Sauce:

  • 300g pork belly
  • 1 onion
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce/patis
  • shrimp stock (see above)
  • table salt (pinch)
  • 40g achuete/annatto oil
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water

Achuete Oil Recipe:

  • 5g vegetable oil
  • achuete/anatto seeds

Noodles:

  • 2 bunches of dangmyeon or rice noodles

Toppings:

  • 1 or 2 boiled eggs
  • 1 bulb garlic (for frying)
  • 50g chicharron
  • crispy pancetta (reserved from stock)
  • smoked mackerel for flaking
  • boiled prawns, 16 pcs (reserved from stock)
  • 4 lemon wedges
  • 1/2 bunch of spring onions
Equipment
Utensils

1x large chopping board, 4x containers, 1x chef knife,  1x tray, 3x high-sided pan, 1x wooden spoon, 1x ladle and bowl, 1x frying pan, paper towel, 1x food processor, 1x slotted spoon, 1x sieve, 2x large mixing bowls

Pre-Preparation

No pre-lesson preparation needed.

Cooking Method
Step 1

Let's start off with the stock base - peel the prawns separating the shells and the heads from the flesh. Repeat across all your prawns, putting the shell and heads in one bowl and the flesh in another. Leave the prawns to one side and clean down your surface, then give your hands a wash.

Now, let's move onto our pork. Firstly with the belly, remove the thick skin much like you would when filleting a fish. Move to one side and then cut the belly into 1.5 cm strips. Once you have your strips, stack a couple together and then cut into thin lardons. Do the same now with your pancetta.

That's the proteins for our palabok now let's move on to the veg.

Step 2

Grab your vegetables. Let's chop down our 'holy trinity' which we will use for the stock - peel one onion and roughly chop into a large dice. Cut a bulb of garlic in half and then peel the ginger and thinly slice (as it can be very fibrous). Move the aromatics to one side, this will be the base of our stock.

Now the aromatics for our sauce. Peel a second white onion but this time cut into a fine dice and move to one side. Then start peeling the rest of your garlic. Set 5 - 6 cloves to one side (this we will reserve for our topping). With the rest of the garlic, finely dice, sprinkle some sea salt over the top and then continue to mince down to a fine paste. Move your minced garlic to your tray and then with 5-6 cloves you set aside, thinly slice them ready for frying later.

Step 3

While we are at our chopping board let's work on the other garnishes. Wipe down your board and then cut your lemons into wedges. Very quickly and simply slice the greens tips of your spring onions.

Bring over the chicharron pieces and chop through, creating a crunchy powder, place into a separate bowl. Time to move over to the hob.

Step 4

Over at the hob we need to have our pancetta and prawn shells. Heat a high-sided pan with a drop of annatto oil and then go in with the pancetta, rendering the fat out. Once crispy and the smell of pancetta has filled your kitchen, remove the pieces of pancetta, leaving the enhanced annatto oil behind.

Add your garlic, onion and ginger which you’ve reserved for the stock (your ‘holy trinity’) and begin to sweat it down. Lightly brown the aromatics, then season with a touch of salt and then we can add our shells and heads. You'll see the shells and heads almost instantly turn pink, keep them moving and colouring evenly, for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Step 5

Fill another pan with water and bring to a boil for our eggs, at the same time heat a frying pan for our fish, adding a touch of oil. Into the frying pan add your fillet of mackerel skin side down. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your stock, skimming any scum. Then once the skin on your fish is crisp, turn it over to colour the other side.

Now let’s do our checks - season the water for your eggs and see if it’s at a rolling boil, see how the mackerel is coming along checking nothing is burning and finally taste the broth and season accordingly (we should be about 10 minutes away). Then remove the fish from the pan to a tray. Drop your eggs into the water and cook for 6-7 minutes.

Reduce the heat of your frying pan and drop in the thinly sliced garlic which you set aside for the topping. Keep it moving and once you see it starting to colour remove from the pan and onto a papered plate.

Step 6

Once your timer goes for your eggs, put them straight into cold water.

Into a food processor, decant the solids of your stock into the holder (leaving the liquid behind). Blend to a fine puree and then gradually add some of your liquid stock. Add it back to the pan and then through a fine sieve pass your stock pressing as much of the liquid out as possible.

Now is a good time to have a clean down and clean any of your equipment ready for the final steps of this recipe.

Step 7

To a deep bowl, soak the rice noodles in some cold water. To one of your pans, fill it with water and then bring to the boil. Heat another pan with some annatto oil and then fry the minced garlic and then your finely diced onions which you set aside for the sauce- sweat down for a couple minutes and then add your pork belly. Drop in a touch of fish sauce to deglaze our pan. Now, we can go in and add our shrimp stock which we just made. Bring to a boil and reduce by a quarter before dropping the temperature down to a simmer.

Taste your sauce and adjust the seasoning with fish sauce. Now, let's thicken our sauce with some cornflour. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to some cornstarch and mix to a smooth slurry.  Add small amounts of your cornstarch into the pan and as you mix the two together you'll notice the sauce begin to thicken. Leave to cook out for 5 minutes while we get the rest of our dish ready.

Step 8

Into your boiling water, add your noodles and a pinch of salt. Blanch for a couple of minutes and using your tongs separate them as they cook and then pull them out of the pan into your sieve.

Now into the noodle water, pour your peeled prawns into the water and leave to cook for a couple of minutes (or until done). Pluck the prawns from the water and we are now nearing the point of bringing our Pancit Palabok together.

Let's quickly peel our boiled eggs before cutting into wedges. Flake some of your mackerel. We should now have our spring onions, fish, chicharron, pancetta, eggs, garlic, oil and lemon wedges ready to go.

Step 9

To your bowl, place a large pile of your noodles before topping with our beautiful sauce and then it's a case of placing our toppings over the bed of noodles.

Enjoy warm as a snack in the middle of the day or for dinner.

Rex De Guzman
's Notes

Rex's Notes

Step 1

We're going to colour the shells of the prawns which we will then use for the base of our sauce. Very similar to a french bisque.

Peeling the prawns

  1. Twist and pull the head of the prawn away from the body.
  2. Then from underneath the body, peel the shell away from the flesh and place the body in a clean container.

When buying prawns we want the flesh to feel firm, have no aroma to them and no visible signs of damage.

Prawns

Prawns and the wider crustacean family are known for their unique nutty popcorn like aroma and flavours when cooked. This is due to the Maillard reaction taking place at a much lower temperature than your regular meats and fish. This is due to amino acids and sugars in their muscle tissues.

The shells are also full of flavour which is why we use them as the base of our sauce.

You can use the skin from the pork to make your own chicharron!

The lardons in a pancit really help the flavours of your sauce - almost melting down they bring a real richness to the dish.

If your pancetta is fairly thin, make your lardons slightly wider so they cook evenly with our lardons

Step 2

Run your knife through the onions if you need to.

At this stage we're going to peel all the garlic we need for the recipe and then we can divide it up based on where we need it.

You will notice as you cut and work the garlic, the salt will start to extract the moisture from the cloves.

When scraping your board with your knife, turn the knife to a slight angle so you aren't blunting it in the process.

We're going to fry the sliced garlic and make it really crispy.

This recipe is heavily influenced by the Chinese - you can go to the streets of the world's first china town with Gene Gonzalez in this module.

Step 3

Here is a small guide to cutting a lemon wedge properly.

Lemon Wedges

  1. Divide your lemons into evenly sized wedges.
  2. Cut and remove the white pith running along the side of the lemons flesh.
  3. On an angle cut each end of the lemon.
  4. Remove any pips.

Traditionally chicharron is made by boiling the skin and then dehydrating it. As soon as it's dehydrated, it is dropped into hot oil where you will see it puff up.

Step 4

Use the side of your spoon to break up any bits of the pork that stick together - we want to render as much fat out of it as possible.

I love this sauce, as it begins to show you the fundamentals of building flavour and sauce making.

Be careful seasoning your prawn sauce, both the pancetta and the shells of our prawns will bring a saltiness and a base level of seasoning to our dish.

We only need enough chicken stock to cover the contents of our pan.

Step 5

As your stock cooks and comes to the boil, all the impurities will float to the surface. When creating a sauce like this remember:

Skimming & Scum


Skimming is the process of using a ladle or spoon to remove any of the impurities or scum that have risen to the surface throughout the cooking process that would otherwise cloud or muddy our stock.

Uncovered

Leaving the stock uncovered throughout the cooking process is a simple but essential step. It firstly, allows the water to evaporate from the pan, it keeps the temperature of the liquid down and below boiling point and it will also cool the temperature of the surface and dehydrate the surface scum which makes it easier to skim!

With the mackerel we are trying to achieve lots of colour and texture.

The paper will help drain off any excess oil and help our garlic crisp up.

Step 6

We run the eggs under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Bisque

We want to blitz and pulse the solids of our stock first before adding any liquid. This allows the blade to get a hold of the contents of the sauce, giving us an even consistency.

Step 7

Noodles

Starch noodles across Asia are loved for their clarity, glossiness, the slippery and firm texture as well as their relatively quick cooking time.

This pre-soaking allows the noodles to soften slightly, shorten our cooking times and rehydrate them.

Our garlic will cook very quickly as it's minced so keep control of the temperature in your pan.

If your pan sounds dry, add a touch of oil.

We want to start off by stirring often, so our vegetables cook evenly but when the pork goes in, begin to stir it less - this will help bring colour to the recipe.

Deglazing

This is the process of adding a liquid to loosen, lift and dissolve any food particles that are left stuck to the bottom of the pan. The sediments left on the bottom are sometimes referred to as 'Fond' and are full of flavour.

Cornstarch

A pure starch, which is a greater thickener than flour. It’s made by soaking whole maize grain, milling it coarsely to remove the germ and hull. It is then ground, sieved and dried.

Step 8

Separate your noodles before cooking them in salted boiled water (much like pasta).

Pancit's are often served as a snack during the day.

I like to keep the pieces of the mackerel slightly larger as it's nice to feel the texture of the fish on your pallet.

Get Creative
  • Shells - If you are hosting a dinner party or cooking for a large number of people, create your sauce using both prawn and crab shells. This will help you bulk out your sauce.
  • Noodles - Research different types of noodles and how that will affect your Pancit dish. There are many different varieties and types to be explored.
  • Toppings - Bring your own toppings to the dish to really make it your own. From different cuts of meat or fish to different citrus fruits like calamansi. A substitution for the smoked mackerel would be any tinapa or smoked fish.
Allergens
  • crustaceans
  • fish
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Rex De Guzman
Filipino cuisine for a long time has been misunderstood and underrepresented so I'm working to bring attention to it.