Ukoy made of green papaya and kalabasa are a delicious snack, appetizer, or side dish. These vegetable fritters are golden, crunchy, and tasty!
Ukoy or okoy are Filipino-style fritters made of assorted vegetables, shell-on shrimp, and an atsuete-colored batter. The chunky mixture is dropped in sizzling oil in large spoonfuls and deep-fried until and crunchy.
These crispy patties are commonly peddled by street food vendors in wet markets as well as sold in many carinderias or restaurants. They’re served as a snack, appetizer, or side dish and traditionally enjoyed with a spiced vinegar dip on the side.
Vegetables to use
Shrimp fritters are not only simple to prepare but also versatile. The list of vegetables and root crops below are a great option to use.
- firm tofu cubes
- julienned kalabasa
- shredded green papaya
- julienned carrots
- shredded cabbage
- julienned sweet potatoes
- mung bean sprouts (togue)
- chopped green onions
- shredded cassava
- shredded zucchini
- sliced shallots
- Salt the shredded papaya to dispel of excess liquid that would otherwise water down the batter and break apart the fritters during frying.
- Cut the ingredients as thinly and evenly as possible to ensure fast and even cooking.
- The annatto powder is mainly for color; adjust the amount according to the desired depth of color.
- Add fish sauce for umami flavor. You can also stir in shrimp bouillon in the batter and adjust seasoning to taste.
- For a crispy texture, use enough oil to cover the patties at least halfway. Do not overcrowd the pan and cook in batches as needed.
- Maintain the optimal temperature of 350 to 375 F is crucial. Too high and the fritters will burn before sufficiently cooked through, too low and they will absorb more grease.
- Use a large spoon or a small saucer to evenly portion and easily slide the batter into the hot oil.
- To keep from falling apart, fry the fritters undisturbed for about 2 to 3 minutes until browned on the bottom and then turn with the spatula to continue to cook until browned and crispy.
- Drain on a wire rack set and not on paper towels as the condensation will make the ukoy soggy.
How to serve
- Serve as a midday snack or appetizer with spicy vinegar on the side for dipping.
- As with most fried foods, they’re best enjoyed freshly cooked as they tend to lose crispness over time and do not reheat well.
- If not eating immediately, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and keep warm and crispy in a 200 F oven until ready to serve.
- 1 medium green papaya, peeled, seeded and shredded
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 small kalabasa, peeled, seeded and julienned
- 3 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
- canola oil
- 1/2 pound small shrimps, tendrils trimmed
Spiced Vinegar Dip
- 1 cup vinegar
- 2 to 3 Thai chili peppers, minced
- 1/2 small red onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a bowl, combine shredded papaya and about 1 tablespoon salt. Let sit for about 10 minutes and using hands, squeeze to dispel juices. Rinse under cold running water and squeeze to remove excess liquid.
- In a large bowl, combine egg, cornstarch, flour, water, fish sauce, salt, and pepper. Whisk together until well-blended and smooth.
- Add papaya, kalabasa, shallots and green onion to batter and stir to combine.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat about 2-inch of oil until hot.
- On a large spoon, place about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mixture and press 1 to 2 shrimps on top.
- Gently slide mixture into the hot oil and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and crisp. Cook in batches as necessary.
- Remove from heat and drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Serve hot with spiced vinegar dip.
For the Spiced Vinegar Dip
- In a bowl, combine vinegar, chili peppers, onions, and garlic.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.