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–+ servings

Sotanghon Noodles with Bola-Bola

Sotanghon Noodles with Bola-Bola is a dish of cellophane noodles, meatballs and vegetables. Often, my mom cooked this for special family get-togethers. This recipe can be served in this amount or doubled if expecting guests. The base of this noodle dish is a saute of garlic, onions, celery flavored with patis (fish sauce) and calamansi, the Filipino lime. There is much versatility to this savory, filling meal. One can add or substitute chicken, shrimps and even tofu to the dish. Vegetables are limitless, too. Add vegetables in season if you prefer. I try to cook this dish as close to the recipe my mom used to make with hearty beef meatballs, crisp sitsaro (snow peas) and the silky sotanghon transparent noodles we love. This was inspired by Lulu Reyes Besa and is an Asian In America recipe. Serves 4.    
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Asian, Filipino
Keyword: Sotanghon Cellophane Noodles Bola Bola Meatballs
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 368kcal


  • 1 pound ground beef for meatballs
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce for meatballs
  • 1 whole egg for meatballs egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs for meatballs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • 1 16 oz. package sotanghon noodles 16 oz., pre-soak in water for 30 minutes
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 Tablespoon achuete or annatto seeds
  • 1/2 cup warm water to soak achuete
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • 2 Tablespoons patis fish sauce
  • 1 medium carrot peeled, sliced, about 1 cup
  • 2 cups snow peas edges trimmed or 'sitsaro'
  • 2 stalks scallion greens chopped, for garnish
  • 1 Tablespoon calamansi juice for sprinkling (or lemon juice)
  • 2 Tablespoons for saute vegetable oil
  • 1 to 2 whole hard-boiled eggs peeled, sliced, for garnish


  • Make the meatballs by combining in a large mixing bowl the ground beef, onion, egg, bread crumbs, soy sauce, salt and black pepper. Mix well. Shape into 1-inch sized meatballs and put on a flat tray. You should have about 18 pieces. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up while cooking the saute.
  • Pre-soak the sotanghon noodles in water for 30 minutes. Do not exceed soaking longer than thirty minutes or noodles get too mushy and clump together. After 30 minutes, drain the noodles and discard water. Set the noodles aside.
  • Take the achuete or annatto seeds and soak them in a small bowl filled with warm water. After about 20 minutes, the water turns a reddish-orange color. Strain the seeds over a sieve, while pressing down on them using a fork. Pour the warm water it was soaked in. Save the red-colored achuete water for the saute and set aside. You should have about 1/3 cup.
  • In a large skillet or wok, over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil. When oil is hot enough, saute the garlic, onions and celery. After these soften, add the broth and patis (fish sauce).
  • Add the beef meatballs to the saute. Lower heat to a medium. Cover and cook till meatballs are done for about 15 to 18 minutes.
  • When meatballs are done, pour the achuete liquid to the saute.
  • Add the carrots and the snow peas to the skillet. Continue cooking for about 5 to 6 minutes till vegetables soften.
  • Add the softened, pre-soaked sotanghon noodles. Combine all the ingredients well till the achuete liquid coats the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes more. Garnish with scallions, hard-boiled egg slices and sprinkle calamansi (or lemon) juice just before serving. Serve warm.
  • Cookbook Author's Notes: Newly-published My Mother's Philippine Recipes Cookbook by Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino is a collection of traditional Filipino recipes from the author's mother transformed to modern home cooking in an American kitchen. The cookbook is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.


Calories: 368kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 1940mg | Potassium: 594mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 3185IU | Vitamin C: 34.2mg | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 4mg