How Do You Know If It's Pancit Luglog, Palabok, Or Pancit Malabon?
Travel around the Philippines and you'll find there are more types of pancit than you ever thought possible. Even as short as a trip to Cavite will reveal there are at least eight kinds that you can enjoy!
However, there are three very similar pancit or noodles that are easily mistaken for the other despite the culinary differences of each dish. Are you too confused about these three kinds of pancit: the pancit luglug, the pancit palabok, and the pancit Malabon? All three noodle dishes use a kind of transparent or translucent noodles and each are tossed or topped with a red-orange sauce loaded with a multitude of toppings that include crushed chicharon, hard-boiled eggs, and seafood.
So how are these three kinds of pancit different if they look so similar?
Let's clarify the differences between these three dishes once and for all. Here's how these pancit dishes are different from (and similar to) each other:
What is pancit palabok?
This may be the most common kind of three pancit dishes. That's because this doesn't use special noodles in the dish. Bihon, or rice flour noodles, are the noodles you usually associate with the palabok. For this dish, the thin rice noodles that are similar to spaghetti, not the flat variety, are the noodles to use.
What makes this unique among other pancit is the sauce. The sauce of the palabok is made with shrimp and pork broth. It's dyed a reddish-orange with the annatto or atsuete seeds. What's more, ground pork is sautéed to combine with the shrimp broth base to create the super flavorful sauce.
The noodles are commonly tossed together prior to serving. Combined with the variety of different toppings that includes hard-boiled eggs, crushed pork chicharon, tinapa flakes, and crispy bits of garlic when served, the pancit palabok is the sauciest among the three kinds of pancit.
What is pancit luglug?
Just like the pancit palabok, this local noodles recipe is made with a red-orange sauce. The sauce looks similar too since it is made with shrimp broth. What makes it very different in the looks department is the noodles used. This pancit uses rice noodles, too, but typically a much thicker rice noodle than the common variety bihon.
Not only that, but the sauce can also be considered a meatless option for those who don't or want to eat pork. A homemade shrimp broth, colorfully enhanced with atsuete, is easily made from the discarded shells including the heads of the hipon used in the sauce, creating a super flavorful sauce that is the main flavoring ingredient. Another thing that makes this different is the tokwa or tofu chunks that are a common topping for this pancit instead of the ground pork in the palabok. While slices of tender pork is commonly served sliced on top when served, this can be optional as is the crushed chicharon.
What is pancit Malabon?
Of the three kinds of local noodle dishes, this is the only pancit named after the city where it originated from. It still uses rice noodles but the thick version that's used in pancit luglug. It is also tossed in the same looking reddish-orange sauce of the other two pancit. It's extremely loaded with toppings, often with various kinds of seafood, not just shrimp. Toppings can easily be changed but these toppings is not what makes it different from the other two.
The difference lies in the sauce and it's a difference that you have to taste to understand.
What makes this pancit dish so unique that it earned its city's name? The Malabon version of this saucy noodle dish is not made with just shrimp or even pork. Crab fat or aligue is the main flavoring ingredient that makes this version so appetizing and delectable.
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