Right next to the cake is what grabbed my attention and made me drool. It's Pancit Palabok! It has been a while since I've had it. My parents would usually just buy them from Red Ribbon or cook with the powdered mix but I found it never tastes quite the same as I remember eating them in Manila.
Pancit Palabok always reminds me of my Mom's oldest sister who always gets commissioned to cook this dish on our parties. I remember watching her in the kitchen putting the dish together. She boiled and strain the noodles then ladled the simmering sauce and proceed to lay out the toppings one at a time. Then she would hand me the platter to put out in the dining table. I'd always be careful when I did this 'cause I'm afraid I'd disturb the the way my Auntie "designed" it; her work of art!
So I decided I should cook this from scratch just like my Auntie did. Based on what my Mom and sister knew about what goes into our Auntie's recipe and here's what I came up with.
2-3 Tbsp. cooking oil, more as needed
1 package medium-firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut in 1/4 in. cubes
1o-15 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 large onion, finely minced
1/4 cup flour
2 lbs. head-on shrimp, peeled, heads and shells reserved for shrimp stock
6 cups Shrimp Stock (recipe follows)
1/4 cup atchuete seeds soaked in 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes
1 1-lb. package pancit noodles
1 package chicharon, ground up
1 bunch scallions, green tops sliced (save white part for other use)
4 hard-boiled eggs
kalamansi wedges (or lemon)
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Fry tofu until lightly brown and crisp on all sides, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain; set aside.
Lower heat to medium and in the same saucepan saute the garlic until lightly brown. Stir often as not to burn or overcook. (May need more oil, if needed). Remove all but a tablespoon to bowl and set aside.
Turn heat back to high and add the onions, cook until soft and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the flour and stir frequently for a couple of minutes. Then add the fried tofu, shrimp, stock and atchuete water and let boil for 1 minute. Remove the shrimp as they cook so they don't get tough and set aside. Lower heat and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes or until thickened.
Meanwhile, boil another pot full of water for noodles. Boil until done and strain. Place noodles on serving platter.
The decorating starts! Ladle on the sauce until all the noodles are covered. Then sprinkle on the chicharon, reserved fried garlic and shrimp and scallions. Lastly, slice eggs and place on top. Serve with kalamansi wedges.