Sometimes desperation drives us to do things we normally wouldn’t do in the right frame of mind.
A few months ago our bedroom door got stuck shut and I couldn’t enter the room. I asked my husband to try and open the door but he couldn’t.
“What about using a screwdriver?” I asked him. After a few minutes of fiddling nothing happened. Now please understand that this happened on a Sunday afternoon and all I could think about was how my clothes were in the room and I would have nothing to wear to work the next day.
Desperate, I told my husband “I think you have to break the door down.”
So he backed up a few feet from the door… ran… straight INTO THE DOOR! BANG!
Nothing happened. We looked at each other and started laughing hysterically.
“Please try again!” I pleaded. He happily obliged. BANG! This time, a small crack on the door.
“I have a feeling, the next one will take it down.” He said.
“Yes! Yes! Please.” I replied.
And so he went, straight into the door and he finally managed to break the door down.
We were doubling over with laughter and to be honest, quite proud of ourselves for getting it open.
That is, until one of the people I mentioned this to came up with a very valid comment “Why didn’t you just call the locksmith?”
That’s desperation for you…
This dish too was brought about my my desperation to have Pancit Palabok. Now, in the Philippines you can get this noodle dish almost anywhere. It’s also very popular for birthdays. But in my desperation this weekend to have this dish, I had to make it from scratch. Pancit Palabok or Pancit Luglug (they are pretty much the same dish except Palabok uses a thicker noodle) is flavoured with a prawn gravy thickened with cornflour or flour and poured over rice noodles (bihon). What I love most about this dish are the toppings – it”s a matter of personal choice but the most common toppings include prawns, pork, hard-boiled eggs, smoked fish, tofu and my personal favourite, crushed pork crakcling (chicharon)!
Yes, that’s desperation for you, but luckily some acts are less destructive than others!
- 500 grams rice noodles (bihon)
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) cooking oil
- 10 grams dried prawns
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon achuete powder
- 600 ml shrimp stock (see recipe below)
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) fish sauce (plus more to taste)
- salt and pepper
- Toppings: grilled squid, prawns, pork belly, smoked fish (tinapa), crushed pork crackling (chicharon), spring onions, hard boiled egg (quartered)
For Prawn Stock
- 500 grams fresh prawns
- To make the prawn stock, peel the prawns and place the peels (including the prawn heads) them in a pot and cover with around 600 ml of water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Make sure to press the peels as the stock is simmering to extract as much flavour as you can. Continue to simmer for around 30 minutes and set aside. The peeled prawns can be used for the toppings.
- Heat the cooking oil and saute the dried prawns and garlic until fragrant, around 2 minutes. Next, add the flour and the achuete powder.
- Add the prawn stock, a little at a time as if making a roux and mixing well after each addition. The sauce should now be thick (like a custard or a thick bechamel). If you prefer to make it thinner, add some water to dilute. Add the fish sauce and some salt and pepper to taste.
- For the toppings – this should be done to taste. Marinate the squid, prawns and pork belly in equal quantities of soy sauce and fish sauce for around 30 minutes then grill or pan fry.
- Fill another pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the bihon noodles and cook for around a minute until tender. Strain then place in a bowl Top with the prawn gravy, and the toppings (see above).