Milan’s Aglio e Oglio, Manila’s Palabok August 4, 2009

Filed under: Meals — sotsil @ 3:30 pm
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The Italians have their pasta; the Asians have their noodles.

I’ve eaten in a lot of cafeterias in the US and Canada but the ones that left an impression were the World Bank/IMF cafeterias as well as the cafeteria of the company I used to work for.   The chef (I think we pirated him from the Italian restaurant next door) would regal us with his pasta dishes, and I was taken in by his aglio e oglio

To make my day, my colleagues would simply say, “guess what’s on the menu today?” They knew I’d be the first in line for the aglio e oglio.  When I left the company, I had to learn to make it.  I thought the learning curve for making this dish would be steep, but I was pleasantly surprised because it’s one of the easiest – and quickest – dishes to make!

I eat it once a week.  Someone once called it the poor man’s spaghetti, a pasta dish that started in a small impoverished town called Abruzzo in Italy (I did not verify this).  Poor man or not, it sure is a palate pleaser.

There’s nothing poor  about aglio e oglio.  The flavor is rich.  People who love the combination of fresh garlic, a good cheese and olive oil will include it as a permanent feature in their recipe box.  I make mine with onions, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, grated parmesan cheese and dried parsley.  After eating, I end up with the foulest breath that remains for more than a day.   So if you’re going out on a special date, wait until you’re back!

aglio aglio2 

This is really simple to do.  You’ll need:

  • spaghettini (you can use linguine or regular spaghetti – I won’t say how much you should cook because I’m sure you know how much to make.  In fact after making this dish a few times, you don’t even have to measure quantities).
  • olive oil (enough to coat all of the pasta when cooked)
  • pine nuts (I put about 4 tbsp +)
  • onions (2 tbsp)
  • fresh garlic (3-4 tbsp – I use much more because I want the garlic to be overpowering…tsk…tsk)
  • dried parsley for garnish
  • grated cheese for garnish
  • red pepper flakes or tabasco (optional, if you can’t take spicy)
  • salt and pepper

Here’s the method:

aglio directions


Then when the mood strikes me, I leave Italy and head for Manila.  We have several noodle types, but I have a weakness for palabok – long white noodles that are showered with a shrimp sauce and topped with shrimps, hard-boiled eggs, green onions, pork cracklings (optional).  Right before serving, squirt a few drops from a fresh lemon (or fish sauce – brine).




Cooking from scratch is a culinary virtue that deserves praise.  For my palabok, however, I’ve come to trust the White Kind brand.  Their boxed versions are not bad.  Sometimes I get the feeling that their packaged meals taste better than mine!  I featured another White King product when I blogged about Asian muffins (rice cakes) here:

Not many Oriental groceries sell palabok noodles which are distinctly different from rice vermicelli or Japanese udon.  You can use bihon – another type of noodle sold in most stores. 

Your best bet, though, is to go with the White King package because they contain the genuine palabok noodles.  Follow the directions at the back of the label.  Don’t worry, it’s easy.  The only fresh ingredients you need are shrimps (frozen will do too), eggs, and green onions.  Sorry, these don’t come with the box!

This is what the package looks like.


Pasta and noodles are true comfort foods; what would life in North America be without them?