Before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, Chinese traders frequented the island chain and brought a lot of their culinary influences, including noodle soups However, this soup is not strictly Chinese and has Spanish influences such as the addition of chicharron or pork cracklings. I did not have them the day I made this version, but I suggest you include them. They add a really nice textural element. While the traditional version calls for boiling down beef and pork bones as well as shrimp heads and shells, I have simplified a bit and developed a recipe using shrimp paste and pork butt instead. If I have time, I sometimes include shrimp shells because they do add a rich umami flavor. When I peel shrimp, I always save the shells and heads in my freezer for making stocks and broths. They are alsogreat for making fish-based soups or even paella.
This dish gets its name from the La Paz district of Iloio city where the dish is said to have been created. The creator’s son said his father jokingly referred to the soup as “bats” and added choy from chop suey. Although I did not get to sample this dish while I was in the Philippines, I think it exemplifies what I like best about Filipino food. It elevates simple ingredients and borrows flavor profiles from a variety of cuisines to make what I view as Asian comfort food.
Vegetable oil (enough to fry sliced garlic) – I usually use a small sauce pan.
1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated and thinly sliced
5 additional cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp shrimp paste or Ginisang Bagoong (I like to use sautéed versions)
1 onion thinly sliced
2 lbs pork butt
1 lb egg noodles (I like to get the refrigerated fresh Chinese egg noodles, but you can use the noodles of your choice)
salt to taste
sliced green onions for garnish
chicharrones or pork cracklings (pork skins) for garnish
- Prepare pork soup base. In a large stock pot, heat 1-2 Tbsp oil until hot. Add onions, garlic, and shrimp paste and cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add piece of pork butt and cover with water (about 7-8 cups). Add some salt to season (1-2 Tbsp) and bring to a low simmer. Cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 hours or until pork is tender and shreds easily with a fork.
- While the pork is simmering, prepare fried garlic chips. Heat a few cups of oil in a small saucepan until it is hot enough to fry the garlic. I like to use a wooden chopstick to test the oil. If you insert the tip and it produces vigorous bubbles, it’s ready. Add your sliced garlic and fry gently for 4-6 minutes until the garlic is golden. Remove and drain on a paper towel. The leftover oil will also take on the flavor of the garlic and is delicious for making garlic bread or drizzling over beans so don’t discard it!
- Remove the pork from the stock pot and slice. Strain the broth and bring back up to a low simmer. Taste the broth to see if it needs any additional salt.
- Heat your noodles according to the directions on the package and divide between six bowls. Ladle over the soup broth and garnish with a few slices of pork, a sprinkle of green onions, some cracklings, and a few fried garlic chips. Enjoy!