Inexpensive food that falls within the poor man's budget are the type of food that are usually sold in the streets in the Philippines. One of them is ukoy, a vegetable fritter that's eaten as a snack or a side dish, usually paired with rice congee.
Thinking of ukoy brings me back to my local market back home. Vendors line the pavement outside the market and these are one of the food commonly sold. They are fried in situ then lined in bamboo trays, their aroma wafting as people pass by. They were big and round and yellow and studded with tiny prawns, still in their shells. They were supposed to add crunch to the fritters. How I hated those. They poke my mouth as I chewed.
It is a very simple food and versions vary as much as the cooks' personalities. It is the batter that makes a difference; it has to be crisp. The toppings can be anything: bean sprouts, tofu, sweet potato and small shell-on prawns are the usual ones used. I think the texture of the toppings greatly affect the finished product. I chose butternut squash because it cooks fast and is not too watery.
The old recipes use ground rice for the batter. Although wheat flour is more commonly used now, I prefer using rice flour because it retains its crispness longer. I chose very simple toppings for this ukoy: butternut squash, prawns and spring onions. This is simply delicious as a snack, appetizer or side dish.
1/2 c. rice flour/ground rice (not glutinous)
1/2 c. corn flour
1/2 c. fish stock or water
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsps. fish sauce
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
300 gms. butternut squash, julienned
1/2 c. chopped shelled raw prawns
1/2 c. sliced spring onions
2 cloves garlic chopped
Mix the rice flour and corn flour with the fish stock or water. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Add the egg white, baking powder, baking soda, fish sauce and ground black pepper and whisk until thoroughly mixed.
Add in the squash, prawns, spring onions and garlic. Mix again.
Heat up enough oil for shallow frying.
Stir the mixture. Scoop up about a quarter of a cup of the mixture into a saucer and form into a flat circular shape. Slide this gently into the oil and fry on medium heat for about 5 minutes (turning over when the bottom is browned) or until crisped and browned. Fry only a few pieces at a time, spooning hot oil on top of the fritters as they fry.
Stir the mixture before you make each fritter as the batter tends to settle to the bottom.
Serve the fritters with a garlic, onion and vinegar dip.
Ingredients for the dip:
1/2 c. white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic sliced
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
1 chilli, sliced
2 tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Mix all of the ingredients together and serve with the ukoy.
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