Pandora

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The wife and I keep a fairly organized pantry. Most everything is easy to find and within reach because the items on our shelves are clearly labeled, or are in clear canisters, or both.

But there are always three wildcards in the pantry for us. Three tins that previously contained things like candy, gingerbread mix, and cookies (they were all gifts) are now recycled and employed to house other flotsam and jetsam.

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Problem is, I can never remember the booty currently contained in each tin because I don’t label them, and my X-ray vision only works on rayon, silk, and maybe even denim (not that I’m complaining).

So every now and then I have to pop open each tin to figure out what the heck lay (or lie? I be not good at grammar) beneath their lids.

For example, I just (re)discovered that the green tin stashes away my heroin brown sugar (keeps it moist):

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The gingerbread tin hides my weed oregano (keeps the whole cupboard from stinking of oregano [I buy in bulk, so a small little jar is not sufficient]):

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And so that leaves the round cookie tin. For the life of me, I can never remember what I hide in that one (my memory must be shot from all the oregano I consume)…

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Oh yeah, that’s where my dried shrooms shrimp are!

After opening my round cookie tin, a whiff of pungent funk punched me right in my face. It’s been a few months since I brought these tiny shrimp back from the Philippines, and they’ve been pretty much out of sight and out of mind for me.

So after me and my tiny shrimp became reacquainted with each other (hugs and hand-pounds all around), I knew I had to make something with them otherwise they would again be forgotten for another few months.

The first dish I made with the little dried buggers was Ukoy. For those not in the know, Ukoy are fried Filipino fritters comprised of a myriad of veggies (like carrots, onions, green papaya, and sweet potatoes) and studded with shrimp (dried or fresh). In layman’s terms, Ukoy are like shrimpy hash browns.

My first attempt at Ukoy, although quite tasty, did not resemble any other Ukoy I have had in the past:

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To the best of my knowledge, Ukoy are supposed to be fairly flat fritters (at least that’s how my mom and grandma both make them). But when I threw together my Ukoy batter for my first go around, I combined some AP flour, rice flour, beer (of course), onions, some of the dried shrimp, a couple eggs, some baking soda, and some baking powder. But I’m sure the eggs, baking soda, and baking powder all contributed to the fluffy shrimp cakes that came out of my frying pan:

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The shrimp cakes were actually pretty good, and had a very pronounced shrimp flavor. I’d make them again for sure, I just wouldn’t call them Ukoy.

For my second try at Ukoy, I eliminated the eggs and leaveners altogether, and also threw in some julienned (courtesy of my trusty mandoline) carrots and sweet potatoes. This attempt was definitely a more familiar fritter to me:

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My Ukoy are delicious on their own, but it’s still almost impossible to eat Ukoy without the customary dip in a sauce of vinegar, garlic and black pepper.

Even after two rounds of Ukoy, I still had a good amount of potent dried shrimp left. Looking for more inspiration in my pantry, I came across a bag of Carnaroli rice we still had from our trip to Italy two years ago (even in a clear bag, the rice still managed to go unnoticed all this time). So to finish off my supply of shrimp, I made a shrimp stock out of them and then used the shrimp stock to make a simple shrimp risotto:

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My risotto actually turned out much creamier than pictured, but it had dried out by the time I got it into a bowl, garnished it, and got a decent shot of it. Risotto is terribly un-photogenic.

And although these dried shrimp are small in size, don’t let their daintiness fool you: they pack a lot of shrimp flavor.

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I only needed half a cup of the shrimp to produce enough stock for the risotto. I also didn’t strain the shrimp out of the stock and ladled some of them into the rice so that the finished risotto would be studded with the tiny shellfish:

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After making the Ukoy and the Shrimp Risotto, my cookie tin is now empty and waiting to hide some other contraband. Hopefully whatever it is I put into the tin will be able to overtake the smell of chocolate chips and shrimp.

Ukoy (Shrimp Fritters)

Makes about 10-12 fritters

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rice flour
Ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces cold beer
1 tsp patis
1 small red onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 sweet potato, peeled and julienned
1 cups small dried shrimp (can be found at the Asian market, make sure they are not salted. If small dried shrimp can’t be found, regular fresh shrimp can be used–just push one to two shrimp into each fritter)
Oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, rice flour, and black pepper and stir to mix well. Add the beer and patis and stir to combine and form a batter. Add the vegetables and the shrimp and mix well.

The batter shouldn’t be overly thick, but it shouldn’t be runny either. You should be able to scoop the batter with a spoon:

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Add enough oil to a large skillet or pan until the level of the oil is about 1/2-inch high. Heat the oil over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, drop a large spoonful of batter into the pan, flattening the batter with the spoon. Fry the fritter on both sides until golden brown. About 3-4 minutes per side.

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Drain the fritters on paper towels and serve immediately.

Dried Shrimp Stock

Makes about 4 cups

1/2 cup dried shrimp
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 lemon, halved and seeded
1 bay leaf
4 cups water

In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove and discard the onions and lemons. Use the stock in dried shrimp risotto (recipe below).

Dried Shrimp Risotto

Makes 2-4 servings

4 cups shrimp stock (recipe above)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch saffron
1 cup Risotto rice (such as Arborio or Carnaroli)
1/2 cup white wine
salt, or fish sauce, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
zest of one lemon
chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the shrimp stock in a separate pot just until
boiling. Reduce heat to low and keep the shrimp stock warm and ready to
use on the stove.

In a separate large skillet or saucier, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and sweat until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and saffron and cook for another minute.

Add the rice to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to coat the rice in the oil, reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook the rice until each kernel is toasted, about 7-8 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup of wine to the pan, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Cook for another minute or so until the wine is absorbed.

After the rice has absorbed the wine, add one cup of the warm shrimp stock to the pan and stir. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp stock has been absorbed into the rice and you are able to see the bottom of the pan:

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Continue to add the shrimp stock, one cup at a time, until all the shrimp stock has been absorbed. But be sure not to add any stock until the previous addition has been absorbed. With occassional stirring, it will take anywhere from 20-45 minutes for all the stock to be absorbed. Also ladle in as much or as little of the small shrimp from the stock as you’d like–discard any shrimp you do not use.

If all of the stock has been absorbed, and the rice is still hard and not cooked through, continue to add 1-cup installments of water until the rice is done to your liking.

Taste the risotto for seasoning and add salt and/or fish sauce, and black pepper to taste. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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  • Manggy September 29, 2008, 10:21 pm

    Ah, I was scrolling down so I was about to say, to get rid of the eggs to achieve more of a tempura-style batter. But of course, you already thought of that :) Looks very authentic!
    Shush, the risotto does look good, don’t let yourself or anyone tell you otherwise :) The dried shrimp would have also been great in a pad thai.
    I don’t think anything in that can would be able to resist being infused with the aroma of dried shrimp!

    Reply
  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js September 29, 2008, 11:01 pm

    Those leetel dried shreemps look so kiyoot!
    I love ukoy but sometimes the “commercial” ones tend to be too greasy. Yours look perfectly fried. The risotto looks pretty creamy where I’m sitting.

    Reply
  • bernadette September 30, 2008, 2:48 am

    your pantry is soo clean and organized, Marvin! You should see my pantry! My husband once tried to scour some dried hash—este tea from it and found a thousand and other things other than that. Boy! was he pissed!!! :-) he decided to clean the cabinet himself.
    Your ukoy and risotto recipes I will definitely make…now what box did I put those ingredients in?

    Reply
  • Erin September 30, 2008, 8:17 am

    Wow, your pantry is really organized. I only have one tiny cupboard for my dry stores, you need to wear a hard hat just to open the door. The risotto and Ukoy look delicious. Maybe I’ll have to pick up some dried shrip next time my cupboard has an inch or two open.

    Reply
  • dp September 30, 2008, 9:28 am

    Those fritters sound like something I’d enjoy. I’m sure the dried shrimp adds nice punches of flavor. It’s too bad the dried shrimp in the US are so terrible; dry, crumbly and grey. Yuck. My mom always brings them back when she visits Thailand, and they are worlds better than any I’ve every gotten here.

    Reply
  • veron September 30, 2008, 10:23 am

    Oh my! I can just imagine how tasty these dishes are. Love shrimp fritters!

    Reply
  • Yarn Hungry Hog September 30, 2008, 3:35 pm

    Ukoy! Even my pastey-white husband enjoys ukoy. The only Pinoy food he will tolerate. Oh, aside from lumpia, of course.
    Thanks for your recipe, I will surprise him with this dish on his birthday. Fortunately, his birthday is in December. I have a few months to do my prelim testing ~ that means I’ll be cooking it and eating it all by myself. hahaha!
    When that happens, will definitely let you know how they turned out.
    Marvin, just to let you know, your food blog is one of my reasons I keep longing for Pinoy food.
    And Marvin, you sure are funny.

    Reply
  • ahnjel October 1, 2008, 12:24 am

    ahhh ukoy… actually you can keep the egg just ditch the baking powder and baking soda, and add more liquid more liquid. i love those little critters on my natong (laeng for you tagalog speaking islanders), or almost anything i cook with gata. let me commend you on your neat and tidy pantry, mine is like a warzone although for some reason i know pretty much where my things are. but alas! we have the same problem of forgetting things for months.

    Reply
  • Fearless Kitchen October 1, 2008, 7:20 am

    I like how you made the stock from the dried shrimp – it seems like a great way to use them up quickly.
    Chocolate chips and shrimp in the same scent???? Um…

    Reply
  • greasemonkey October 1, 2008, 9:34 am

    fantastic post as usual! if you’ve got some oregano to spare, they go surprisingly well in a wholesome batch of pork sparerib sinigang with guavas.. even in a marrow laden beef bulalo stew with _lots_ of onions and black peppercorns. ha? =) ingat.

    Reply
  • Katrina October 1, 2008, 10:39 am

    The risotto looks yummy, it’s not unphotogenic at all! :-)
    Shrimp is one of my favorite foods, so of course I’d love ukoy. Have you had the kind that’s almost wafer-thin, translucent, and all-shrimp (no veggies)? That’s my favorite kind of ukoy. As crunchy as potato chips, and just as addicting!

    Reply
  • Nate October 1, 2008, 2:11 pm

    Your pantry is too bare. At least, that’s what Annie would say. I say it’s great that you can easily find everything.
    I see that you shop at Penzey’s. Was that the Torrance store?

    Reply
  • Mikky October 1, 2008, 7:10 pm

    what a clean pantry… correct me if i’m wrong, but i think i spotted some Good Shepherd’s jams over there… guess those are some of the loot you took back with you from home… amazing ukoy and risotto recipes… thanks for sharing… :)

    Reply
  • betty q. October 1, 2008, 10:46 pm

    Hi Marvin…have been a lurker for sometime…discovered your blog through Silly Lolo…love okoy!…I always bind it with tempura batter though….makes it light and crispy! …then the ones floating on top after frying the okoy makes a tasty treat with udon…

    Reply
  • Julie October 2, 2008, 1:50 pm

    Okay, had a minor freakout when you showed the shot of the shrimps because they looked a little wormly. Your fritters and risotto look great, though!

    Reply
  • Jude October 2, 2008, 10:13 pm

    I can almost taste it… Good thing you reminded me of the vinegar-garlic dip. Ukoy just isn’t ukoy without it but it’s one of those things you can easily overlook.

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia October 3, 2008, 8:06 am

    Oooh, Pad Thai! Great idea manggy. I wish I would have thought of that before I used up my stash!
    Hey js! I’ve never had the commercial kind of ukoy before, but I’ll have to try and see if they have those at my Asian market. Might be good to have ukoy on hand whenever I get the craving.
    Thanks bernadette. The pantry is probably the most organized thing in our house, I just like to keep things in order so I know where to find them.
    Thanks Erin! There was a time when we had to wear hard hats for our cupboard too, but I could’t take it anymore! So we decided to really try and get things in order and keep them that way. So fa so good.
    I agree dp, the dried ones I’ve found here don’t compare. Not only are they crumbly and grey, but they lack the same flavor and aroma too.
    Thanks veron!
    Oh my! I can just imagine how tasty these dishes are. Love shrimp fritters!
    Hi Yarn Hungry Dog! Well, that makes at least two pastey-white people that enjoy Ukoy as my wife liked them as well;) And my birthday is in December too. Thanks for the kind words.
    I like the little shrimp in other soups as well, ahnjel, like in dinengdeng. They lend so much flavor to any broth.
    Hello Fearless Kitchen! Yes, if I take a big enough whiff, I can still smell chocolate from the cookies that were once stored in that tin. Or maybe i’m just crazy;)
    Thanks greasemonkey! And I’ve never used oregano in Filipino cooking before, but I can see how it would definitely kick up the dishes you mentioned.
    Hmmm, I’ve never had that type of ukoy before Katrina. But I do admit I could have made my own with more shrimp, I just wanted to save some for my risotto!
    Hi Nate. Thanks for visiting my blog. And yes, I do shop at Penzey’s, but I buy everything online. I find it’s easier than driving out to Torrance;)
    Yes, you are right Mikky. I still have some unopened jars from good shepard in my pantry, as well as a couple of opened jars in my refrigerator. I’ve got some good jam for the long haul…
    Thanks for de-lurking betty q! That’s an awesome tip for sprinkling udon with the lefover fried bits of ukoy!
    Hi Julie! Don’t you think the little shrimps are cute?! 😉
    Hi Jude, the vinegar dip is definitely something you should have with ukoy. Sometimes after I fry up a batch of ukoy or lumpia, I want to get started eating right away and am to lazy to make the vinegar dip. But after a few bites I must have the vinegar;)

    Reply
  • Jacqueline Church October 4, 2008, 5:34 am

    You have the neatest pantry I’ve ever seen. This is what you need however:
    http://www.sugarbearsinc.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PLST&Store_Code=SBI
    Sugar bear – little terra cotta bear you soak then plop into your sugar cannister. Keeps brown sugar moist.
    The best 3.25 you can spend!
    Jacqueline
    The Leather District Gourmet

    Reply
  • Jacqueline Church October 4, 2008, 5:38 am

    Oh – I forgot – new to Filipino food (is that just PC if self-referencing? ie if I were Filipina?)
    There was a London Broil recipe on Epicurious – with a story about its origin. Is it authentic?
    Thanks!
    Jacqueline

    Reply
  • Jacqueline Church October 4, 2008, 5:40 am

    The last thing out of Pandora’s box…anyone know?
    Hope.
    And I’ll leave you with that.

    Reply
  • Tom Aarons October 5, 2008, 9:00 pm

    Those have to be the most beautiful dried shrimp in the world, Marvin. And you’ve taken the best photo of them. Mine are always half shell on, half shell off, some with smelly black heads, others holding onto little bits of stone with their crispy dead legs. I get the skanks of the shrimp world. But you… you get the supermodels! :)

    Reply
  • elmomonster October 6, 2008, 6:26 am

    My goodness. You’re a neat freak alright. But I was waiting for you to cook…Ukoy…one of my absolutely favorite Filipino foods. It’s fried! It’s eaten with vinegar! It’s everything I like in food.

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia October 8, 2008, 11:08 am

    Thanks Jacqueline. I’ve seen that sugarbear before and always wondered if it worked.
    Hi Tom. Skanks of the shrimp world? Your shrimp must be in bad shape;)
    Hi elmo. Again, you’re showing your good taste in filipino food!

    Reply
  • Pat October 8, 2008, 2:36 pm

    will you come over and organize my pantry … pretty please?

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia October 10, 2008, 8:48 am

    Pat, cook me some Indo food, and I’ll organize your pantry;P

    Reply
  • steven November 13, 2008, 9:52 pm

    man it’s been forever since i’ve had ukoy… i need to try making this! (this and your ube ice cream recipe… once i get an ice cream machine…)
    love your humor and filipino-centered blog!

    Reply
  • Coco November 13, 2008, 10:31 pm

    Nice to peak into your pantry! Very neat indeed.

    Reply
  • rosemary chigwada November 17, 2009, 2:35 am

    I have some leftover wood from when our kitchen was done. Was almost going to give it away. Wasnt even thinking of the pantry. The moment I saw your pantry picture, it just clicked. That is where I am going to use that wood! Oh my God its so good meeting you! And your pantry.

    Reply
  • moj December 2, 2009, 6:52 pm

    Would you please let me know where you gt your pantry from & the name of it! I am looking for one like this.

    Reply

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