This is a restaurant-quality palabok recipe made easy! Rich and garlicky shrimp sauce loaded with all the essential toppings–chicharron, pork, eggs, tinapa, shrimp, and squid.
This is way better than Jollibee guys 🙂
Pancit palabok is one of those Filipino dishes that is loved by many but only a few want to make. Perfectly understandable. The long list of ingredients and the many steps you need to do can be overwhelming especially if you're just starting to learn how to cook.
Well, I'm here to tell you there are easier ways to make it and you don't actually need to spend a whole day in the kitchen.
No pounding of shrimp heads. No manual extraction of flavor and no soaking of annatto seeds.
What is Palabok?
Palabok is a Filipino noodle dish known for its iconic shrimp-based orange sauce topped with lots of garnishes. Click to see how many! Yes, those are just garnishes 🙂
The shrimp sauce is the star of the dish and gives it its distinct flavor. It is usually made from ground shrimp heads and shells, garlic, onion, and annatto seeds, which gives the sauce its orange color. The sauce is then mixed with cornstarch and or rice flour to make a gravy consistency.
Pancit palabok has a savory, slightly sweet, and slightly salty flavor, with a hint of smokiness from the tinapa (Filipino smoked fish). The texture is soft and chewy from the rice noodles, with crunchy bits from the chicharon.
Sauce for Palabok
Making the palabok sauce from scratch can be quite laborious and not everyone may have the time to do it. As this is an easy version, we will be making it using time-saving methods.
You can choose from these two different options depending on what ingredients you have at hand.
Option 1 - shrimp stock
- Shrimp bouillon - convenient to use instead of making the broth from scratch.
- Annatto Powder - also known as achuete powder which makes the color of the sauce orange.
- Cornstarch - to thicken the sauce.
Option 2 - palabok mix
Using a palabok mix is the easiest way of making the sauce. It contains all the 3 components in option 1–shrimp flavor, annatto powder, and thickener. There's only one brand that makes this mix (as far as I know) and it is called Mama Sita's Palabok Mix. You can find this in Filipino stores and most Asian stores.
Adding these ingredients to the sauce during the cooking process is the secret to making the best palabok! Why just use it as a garnish, right?
- Tinapa (Smoked-fish) - a good substitute for Filipino tinapa is smoked mackerel. You can buy this in most specialty stores or online. Another good substitute is saba mackerel.
- Toasted Garlic - to make the sauce fragrant and extra garlicky.
- Pork - totally optional but recommended if you want added texture.
Here are the typical toppings I used whenever I make palabok. The squid and tofu can be skipped but nice to add if you're serving this for a special occasion.
- Shrimp and Squid - you can use frozen packs for convenience which have already been cleaned and peeled. Find a small size if you can.
- Pork - I use pork belly for texture (just like what Jollibee does) but you can also use ground pork if preferred which is easier to cook.
- Toasted Garlic - infused with the sauce and use as a garnish
- Crushed chicharon/ pork rinds - can also be substituted with prawn crackers which is what I used.
- Green onion, eggs, and calamansi - are "must-have" extra garnishes.
Type of Noodles
You can use flat rice noodles, bihon (thin rice noodles), and thick rice noodles (for pancit luglug and pancit malabon). But the best noodle for palabok is vermicelli noodles made of pea and cornstarch which I believe is what Jollibee uses for their Pancit Palabok but I could be mistaken don't quote me on this 🙂
How to make Pancit Palabok
Here are my time-saving tips on how to easily make this Filipino noodle dish at home:
Part 1: Prepare and cook the toppings
Making the toppings for palabok takes the longest to do so I recommend doing it first and foremost. Use one pan to cook the toppings (except for the boiled eggs of course). Start with the longest meat to cook, which is usually pork then go from there. After cooking each topping, place them in individual bowls or a large serving plate if you want fewer dishes to wash.
Part 2: Make the Sauce
Don't wash that pan yet. If it's deep enough, you can also use it to make sauce or gravy. All the flavors in drippings will be infused with the sauce. Yum!
Part 3: Cook the noodles
Season the boiling water with salt and oil. Cook the noodles following the time in the package directions. Strain well.
How to Serve Pancit Palabok
Reheat the palabok sauce while the noodles are cooking. It gets thick as it becomes colder. You need it to be runny.
Drain the noodles well then place them on a large serving plate or individual serving plates.
Mix some of the sauce into the noodles and gently toss until all the noodles are covered. Pour the remaining sauce on top. Garnish with remaining tinapa flakes and fried garlic.
Arrange shrimp, squid, tofu, remaining pork, and eggs on top. Sprinkle with spring onions and crushed chicharron. Yes, in that order.
Serve and drizzle with calamansi or lemon juice just before eating.
I like having my palabok with some sort of cake or bread. Here, I served it with Butter Puto. So good together!
Make-ahead tips and shelf-life
The egg, pork, tofu, and sauce can be prepared one day ahead. Store in separate containers then refrigerate. Do not add the smoked fish to the sauce if made ahead as it can shorten the shelf-life. Reheat the sauce then add the smoke fish before mixing it with the noodles.
The sauce can last in the fridge for up to 3 days without the smoke fish or any garnishes.
What to Serve with Palabok
Enjoy palabok with these delicious Filipino treats:
- Puto Cheese – soft, fluffy, milky, and not too sweet.
- Chocolate Cake – easiest Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe ever!
- Filipino Cheese Cupcake – with cheese crumble topping.
- Puto Flan – soft, white, and pillowy puto with leche flan on top.
- Ensaymada Cupcakes – our favorite buttery bread made into cupcakes!
Frequently asked questions
Aside from cornstarch, rice flour can also be used to thicken the palabok sauce. For extra depth of flavor, dry toast it in a hot pan for a few minutes.
Smoked mackerel or frozen mackerel that's been air-fried or pan-fried is a good substitute for Filipino tinapa. You can find this in most specialty stores and online.
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Pancit Palabok with Easy Sauce Recipe
- 7 oz pork belly (slice into strips - see note 1)
- 1 ½ cup water (for boiling)
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup minced garlic
- 9 oz tinapa / smoked fish (see note 2)
- 9 oz small shrimps/prawn (peeled and deveined)
- 1 block firm tofu (sliced into small cubes, optional)
- 7 oz squid (cleaned, sliced into rings)
- 1 cup chicharon (crushed - see note 3)
- 4 hard boiled eggs (peeled and sliced)
- green onions (finely chopped)
Sauce Option 1
- 1 teaspoon annatto powder (add more as needed)
- 4 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ cup water
- 2 pcs shrimp bouillon
- 4 cups hot water
- black pepper (to taste)
Sauce Option 2 (PALABOK MIX)
- 4 cups water
- 1 pouch palabok mix
- black pepper (to taste)
- 16 oz vermicelli / palabok noodles (note 4)
- water (for boiling)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoon oil
Prepare and cook the toppings:
- PORK: Place pork belly strips and water in a deep saute pan. Boil until tender and let the liquid completely evaporate. Season with fish sauce and soy sauce. Continue cooking until the meat is slightly brown. Add a little bit of vegetable oil if needed. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- GARLIC: Add oil to the pan over medium heat. Add garlic before it gets hot. Cook until golden brown. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- TINAPA: In the same pan, fry the smoke fish for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate. Flake the fish using two forks. Remove and discard any pins. Remove the skin if preferred. Set aside.
- TOFU: Pan-fry the tofu in the same pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir gently. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- SHRIMP & SQUID: Pan-fry the shrimp/prawn for 2 minutes until pink and cook through. Season with salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Repeat the same steps with the squid. Do not overcook. Add vegetable oil if needed.
Make the Sauce:
- Option 1: Dissolve shrimp bouillon in 4 cups of hot water. Set aside. In a cup, mix ¼ cup water, cornstarch, and annatto powder. Set aside.Option 2: In a cup mix 4 cups cold water and palabok mix. Stir until completely dissolve. Set aside.
- In a deep pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Pour shrimp broth (option 1) or palabok mix (option 2).
- Sprinkle about 2 tablespoon tinapa flakes, 1 tablespoon toasted garlic, and some pork strips if preferred. Pour cornstarch slurry if using option 1. Cook until thickened. If sauce becomes too thick, add water about ¼ cup at a time. Season with salt, to taste. Remove from heat.
Cook the rice noodles:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Pour oil and salt. Add noodles and cook per package directions. Drain well. Place on a large serving plate.
- Reheat the sauce, if needed. Pour ¾ of the sauce into the noodle and gently toss until the noodles are covered with the sauce. Pour remaining sauce on top. Garnish with remaining tinapa flakes and toasted garlic. Arrange shrimp, squid, tofu, remaining pork and eggs on top. Sprinkle with green onions and chicharon. Serve with calamansi and enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- Pork - ground pork can also be used for convenience. It can be cooked with the sauce and instead of using as a topping.
- Tinapa - I used smoked mackerel as a substitute. Available in specialty stores and online.
- Chicharron - can be substituted with prawn crackers if not available.
- Noodles - I recommend using vermicelli noodles made of peas and cornstarch. You can also use flat rice noodles, bihon (thin rice noodles), thick rice noodles and sotanghon (mung bean glass noodles).
- Shrimp and Squid - you can also use frozen packs which have already been cleaned and sliced for convenience.
Originally published June 2018. Updated with a new recipe, photos, new writing, brand new video.
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Looks very good Mella, thanks for sharing the recipe with us 🙂 And you're right, the list of ingredients is pretty long but the process itself doesn't look to complicated.
So many palabok recipes out there and this is one of the best ones I have tried! Super rich sauce - following the sauce option 2. The toppings really made this recipe. Never thought of adding tofu in palabok but it works! Super yummy!!