With some brief multi-tasking on the stove you can have pancit palabok ready in an hour. This recipe is authentic and flavorful without using a flavor packet or a bouillon cube.
In a small (preferable nonstick) pan heat one tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink on both sides, one to two minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper while they cook. Remove from the pan and set aside. (If you're using medium or large shrimp you can cut them in two or three pieces so they're more bite-sized)
In the same pan, add one or two more tablespoons of oil and add the diced tofu cubes. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper to season (or mushroom powder). Cook over medium to medium-high heat, flipping one or two times to give two or three sides of the cubes just a hint of golden color, about five to six minutes depending on how crowded your pan is. Don't brown the tofu. Transfer to a plate.
Allow for one egg per one or two servings. Bring water to a boil in a pot large enough to accommodate the noodles. Add the eggs and boil for about eight minutes (or your preferred hard boil time). Don't drain the water--you'll use it to boil the noodles. Take the eggs from the pot with a slotted spoon and rinse in cold water. Set aside to cool then peel and slice.
In a pot (I used a four-quart size) add two to three tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for one or two minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, watching the heat to make sure the latter doesn't burn. Add the pork, fish sauce, onion powder, garlic powder and mushroom powder (if using) and cook for about 15 minutes or until the meat is just slightly caramelized and rendering its fat. Add the annatto powder, stir and cook for another minute.
Add the clam juice and seafood stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and add the corn starch slurry. Let simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cooked shrimp and tofu and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
Prepare the noodles while you wait for the sauce to come to a boil or while it simmers. In the same pot of boiling water that you used for the eggs, bring the water back to a boil, adding more water if necessary. Add the rice noodles and cook for three to four minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside.
Arrange the cooked rice noodles on a platter, ladle the gravy on top (depending on how much or how little sauce you prefer you may not use all the sauce) and decorate with the garnishes. If you prefer, you can also toss the noodles in the gravy before adding the garnishes. Serve with lemon wedges. The sauce will also keep and freeze.
1/2 cup Liquid with Corn Starch: I recommend using additional stock for the 1/2 cup in this step but you can take this portion from the four cups of seafood stock in the ingredient list. Or you can use water or low-sodium chicken or other stock to end up with a total of 6 1/2 cups liquid in the sauce. This recipe uses 6 1/2 cups stock so if you use water you may need to adjust the seasonings a little.
More on Stock: A combination of seafood and meat stock also works well in this dish and is traditional in some regional versions of Palabok. I used homemade pork stock from carnitas I prepared recently (will link when published) and it worked very well.
Multi-tasking: This is the part where you can save time by using three burners at the same time during the early part of the cooking stage. I used a small nonstick pan to cook the shrimp and tofu in batches while the sauce got its start on another burner. I used a third burner and pot to boil water for the hard-boiled eggs and rice noodles.
Smoked Fish: If you don't have access to Filipino tinapa (smoked fish) I recommend the Ducktrap Smoked Rainbow Trout Fillets (the regular kind, not Lemon Pepper or Maple Glazed)
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