Pancit palabok is one of those classics of Filipino cuisine that is rarely ever prepared at home even on special occasions.
As delicious as it is, the actual preparation is more than a little time-consuming: you need to crush prawn heads to extract the juice, soak annatto (achuete) seeds in hot water for coloring the sauce, boil the lot up with a bit of cornstarch to thicken it, crush chicharon and flake tinapa (smoked fish) and mince up some chives to go on top, and finally soak and drain bihon (bee hoon – thin rice noodles). For most of us city slickers, that’s a bit too much just to prepare a dish that will be devoured in minutes.
Instant noodle maker Lucky Me recently unveiled an instant version of pancit palabok that calls for virtually no cooking whatsoever. In fact, all you need to do is boil up some water, turn off the heat, and leave the rice noodles to soak in it for four minutes. Once you’ve drained the noodles, you top them with the pre-mixed sauce that comes in a sachet within the packet and real, pre-crushed chicharon. The sauce also has a bit of kalamansi juice already mixed in, so squeezing those little limes is totally unnecessary.
So, how was it? Not bad; not bad at all! To be fair, it actually comes close to fast-food chain pancit palabok: good shrimpy flavor in the sauce, the crushed pork rinds added the right amount of crunch, and the noodles were the right texture. It should be noted, however, that one packet alone is rather skimpy; so, if you want to make a meal out of it, you’d better open a couple of packets.
Plus, feel free to throw in your choice of meat and veg to amp your pancit up. In my case, flaked leftover pork adobo or roast chicken or pork work just fine; slivers of leftover roast duck are utterly indulgent, though, albeit inauthentic.