Pancit Malabon is the ultimate noodle experience! Topped with a flavor-packed shrimp gravy and a variety of seafood and garnishes, this classic Filipino dish is hearty, tasty, and sure to wow the crowd!
One of my close friends had a baby shower-slash-potluck over the weekend. I initially planned on buying a tray of sandwiches or a couple of large pizzas for the party, but my other friend coordinating the get-together insisted that I prepare a homemade dish, even going as far as delegating Pancit Malabon to me.
No complaints on my part as I haven't had this Filipino classic for a while, and I was nothing but eager to satisfy the cravings. Judging from the empty aluminum pan I brought the pancit in, everyone enjoyed it as much as I did.
Pancit Malabon is a traditional Filipino fare that originated from Malabon city, hence the name. Like most noodle dishes, it's commonly served during fiestas or special occasions on a bilao, a flat-round container of woven bamboo, rattan, or wood, which adds to the “native feel” of the dish.
The dish is made of thick rice or cornstarch noodles and a yellow-orange hued sauce which draws flavor and color from achuette (annatto seeds), shrimp broth, and crab fat. Its array of toppings reflects the abundant coasts of the area where fishing was once a major livelihood, and it's common to find it heavily laden with harvests from the sea.
Pancit Malabon Ingredients
- Noodles – Pancit Malabon uses thick rice or cornstarch noodles. They're cooked in boiling water until al dente, drained, and tossed with the shrimp gravy before garnishing with various toppings.
- Sauce – the yellow-orange gravy derives its color and taste from shrimp stock, patis, and atsuete. While it's similar to that of Pancit palabok and Pancit luglug, the addition of crab fat gives it a more distinct flavor.
- Toppings – a generous assortment of seafood toppings set Pancit Malabon apart from other pancit dishes. Along with the usual hard-boiled eggs, pork crackling, toasted garlic bits, and green onions. shrimp, and smoked fish flakes, the toppings or garnishes may include oysters, squid, mussels, and shrimp as well as blanched Napa cabbage.
How to serve
- Due to a somewhat elaborate process, Pancit Malabon is usually reserved for fiestas or special gatherings such as birthdays and holidays.
- To serve, toss the noodles with the sauce, transfer to a bilao or platter, and garnish with the choice toppings. To enjoy, spritz with calamansi to brighten flavors.
- Store leftovers in a covered container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Reheat in the microwave at 2 to 3-minute intervals until completely warmed through, stirring well after each interval.
More noodle recipes
- 1 package (16 ounces) thick cornstarch or rice noodle sticks
For the Toppings
- canola oil
- 4 cups napa cabbage, shredded
- ½ pound pork belly, diced
- ½ pound squid, cleaned and cut into rings
- ½ pound large head-on shrimp,
- 1 cup tinapa flakes
- 1 cup pork cracklings, crushed
- fried garlic bits
- 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and quartered
- ¼ cup green onions, chopped
For the Sauce
- 5 cups shrimp stock
- 1 tablespoon annatto powder
- 2 tablespoons shrimp base powder or 2 bouillon cubes
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons crab fat
- salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, soak noodles in water until softened. Drain well.
In a pot over medium heat, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes or until cooked but firm to bite. Drain well and set aside.
In a pot over medium heat, bring about 2 cups water to a boil. Add cabbage and cook for about 30 to 35 seconds or until tender yet crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove from pot and submerge into a bowl of iced water until cooled. Drain well and set aside.
In a pot over medium heat, bring about 1 cup to a boil. Add squid and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the pot and set aside.
In a pan over medium heat, add pork belly and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Peel shrimp, leaving tail intact. Reserve shrimp heads.
In a pot over medium heat, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add shrimp and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until color changes. With a slotted spoon, remove shrimp from pot and set aside. Reserve liquid.
In a pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add tinapa flakes and cook, stirring regularly, for about 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from pan and set aside.
With a knife, coarsely chop reserved shrimp heads. In a pot over medium heat, combine shrimp heads and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to top. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes to extract flavor. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain liquid and discard shrimp solids.
In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the shrimp stock and annatto powder. Stir well until annatto powder is dissolved and water has changed to orange color.
In a large saucepot over medium heat, combine shrimp stock (about 4 cups from boiling the shrimp heads and about 1 cup reserved from boiling shrimp), fish sauce, and annatto water.
Add shrimp base and stir until dissolved. Bring to a boil.
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and ¼ cup water. Stir until smooth. Whisking vigorously, slowly add the cornstarch slurry to shrimp stock and continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Add crab fat and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine noodles, cabbage, sauce, chicharon and tinapa flakes. Gently toss and then transfer to serving plate.
Top with hard boiled eggs, shrimp, pork, toasted garlic bits and green onions. Serve with calamansi wedges.