Gluten Free

Is Palabok Gluten Free?

Ever since its introduction by the Chinese, pancit has been made a part of local cuisines in the Philippines. Over the years, pancit palabok has grown to be one of my favorite comfort foods because it is easy to put together and never fails to please my taste buds.

However, being gluten intolerant means caution never ceases to be necessary when dining out (since I can always make it gluten-free at home), so, is palabok traditionally gluten-free, or are there concerns? here is everything you need to know.

What is palabok?

Pancit palabok is a Philippine noodle dish that combines textures, flavors, and visually appealing colors. It is a commonly eaten comfort food at all Filipino events, from parties to celebrations, and even as an everyday food.

Palabok is made with noodles, a savory sauce made from a mixture of pork broth, and shrimp cubes. ground pork, an annatto powder, and then finished off with toppings like thinly sliced boiled pork, cooked shrimp, eggs, tinapa flakes, and fried tofu cubes.

There are lots of pancit varieties: Bihon, made with noodles derived from rice flour, or a mixture of rice and corn flour. Canton is made with noodles derived from wheat flour and eggs. Then we also have Melabon, which has lots of similarities with Palabok, Lulog, and lots of other varieties.

Is palabok healthy?

Depending on the ingredients used, palabok can be healthy. Palabok contains a great deal of thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B12 all of which are essential for neurological functions, maintaining energy, and overall health. Palabon boasts fibers, proteins, and minerals like magnesium and iron.

While it has all these benefits, palabok can also be detrimental the health. It is typically high in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium which could all contribute to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

A serving of palabok from a philipine popular food chain Jollibee supplies 560 calories, 980 mg of sodium, 18 grams of fat, and 115 milligrams of cholesterol. This surpasses half the daily recommended intake of cholesterol and sodium for an average adult.

To have a healthy experience with palabok, it should not be consumed regularly in large amounts, rather, it should come in as an occasional treat in moderated amounts or you could indulge in the vegetarian version which makes use of spaghetti squash instead of bihon noodles, and annatto instead of shrimp sauce.

Is palabok gluten free?

Palabok is naturally gluten-free as it is made with noodles, broth, proteins, and toppings which are usually gluten-free. However, the fish sauce and shrimp paste could contain gluten–making it important to inquire about the ingredients used in preparing your dish (if you’re dining out, or check the labels of ingredients you use (if you’re making it at home).

Further, even if the ingredients used to prepare your dish are gluten-free, you still stand the risk of cross-contamination when dining out. Before you decide to eat out, it is usually healthy to do research on your intending restaurants and inquire about if they prepare gluten-free palabok, this will make life much easier for you.

What are the main ingredients in palabok?

Ingredient Typical Use Gluten Status
Rice noodles Base for the dish, main source of carbs Gluten-free
Shrimp Protein-rich ingredient, commonly used as topping Gluten-free
Annatto powder or seeds Used for coloring the sauce Gluten-free
Fish sauce Adds flavor and saltiness to the sauce Gluten-free
Garlic Aromatic ingredient, used in sauce and toppings Gluten-free
Onions Flavorful vegetable, used in sauce and toppings Gluten-free
Pork belly or ground pork Protein-rich ingredient, often used in sauce Gluten-free
Hard-boiled eggs Garnish and additional protein Gluten-free
Green onions (scallions) Garnish and flavoring agent Gluten-free
Fried garlic Topping for added flavor and texture Gluten-free
Cornstarch Thickening agent for the sauce Gluten-free
Water or broth Used to cook noodles and make the sauce Gluten-free

How can I make palabok gluten-free at home?

Getting gluten-free palabok at home only requires a few items like gluten-free sauce, noodles, and toppings. Following these steps will help you prepare some yummy palabok.

  • For the noodles, noodles derived from gluten-free flours like quinoa, buckwheat, rice, or cheachpea flour are your best bet. You could equally use spaghetti squash or spiralized veggies. Once you have decided on the noodle, soak the noodle in warm water for 20 minutes.
  • Potato flour, annatto powder, black salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast are what you need for the sauce. Whisk the ingredients together, and when thoroughly combined, bring to a simmer over medium heat until it thickens.
  • For other constituents, oil, garlic carrots, onions, fried tofu cubes, and green beans are needed. Saute the onion and garlic in oil until it reaches your desired texture. Then add the carrots, green beans, and tofu before seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  • The topping of your dish should consist of sliced green onions, vegan chicharon, fried crushed garlic, and calamansi or lemon. Sometimes, I use snow fungus; it is a type of mushroom. To get the snow fungus ready, soak it in water for 15 munites, drain, and cut it to appealing sizes coat it with some pepper, salt, and cornstarch like you would do with Korean corn dogs, then deep fry until it’s crisp and golden brown.
  • To assemble this beauty, on a large platter, place the noodles, pour the sauce over them, then evenly sprinkle the constituents and toppings as it aesthetically pleases you. Then serve with calamansi on the side.

Does palabok have gluten? Final thoughts

Palabok is naturally free from gluten, but cross-contamination and sauce like the fish sauce or shrimp paste commonly used in most retail recipes may contain gluten, making it very important to inquire about the constituents of palabok before eating it.

Cortiso Davids

My culinary adventure began at an early age when I would stand on a chair to help my mom stir pancake batter. Over the years, I've honed my skills and knowledge, drawing inspiration from family recipes, celebrated chefs, and the vibrant food cultures that make our world so diverse and fascinating.

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