Food

Alvin Cailan's Vegetarian Ukoy: How to make these crispy, vegetable fritters with Chile-Vinegar Dipping Sauce

A meat-free, shallow-fried ukoy from the Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream cookbook.

A meat-free, shallow-fried ukoy from the Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream cookbook

(Photography by Wyatt Conlon)

Loaded with shredded vegetables, this ukoy recipe from Alvin Cailan is featured in his cookbook, AMBOY: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream. If his name sounds familiar it’s because Cailan is the chef behind the ultra-popular LA sandwich chain, Eggslut. In his book, he shares recipes for those pillowy egg sandwiches, as well as dishes from his Filipino-American background. These ukoy are a vegetarian version of what he used to make with his Auntie Cita in the backyard. Here’s how to shallow-fry a batch for yourself at home — along with a Chile-Vinegar Dipping Sauce to go with them.

Vegetarian Ukoy (Fritters) with Chile-Vinegar Dipping Sauce 

By Alvin Cailan

Ukoy is a crispy vegetable fritter, and it is my jam. As a kid, I was put to work shredding all the vegetables. I would shred carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, scallions, and bean sprouts into these giant mounds. In another bowl, I would mix the vegetables with chopped shrimp and rice flour batter. Auntie Cita would fry a scoop of that batter old-school wok style, and turn them into these really crispy, delicious fritters. They’re so good with vinegar.

Today, I make a vegetarian version, and I shallow-fry it. Fry the ukoy in small mounds, like latkes! Or make a large pancake in the shape of a pan (easier to flip over).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1 cup shredded sweet potato (about 1 small sweet potato, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot (about 1 large carrot, shredded on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1 cup shredded parsnip (about 1 large parsnip, shredded on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 10 scallions)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms (4 to 5 ounces)
  • 1 (12-ounce) can plain seltzer
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Kosher salt
  • Chile-Vinegar Dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Chile-Vinegar Dipping sauce:

  • 1 cup Datu Puti cane vinegar (see note; available at Asian markets and on Amazon)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Thai bird chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced

Preparation

In a large bowl, combine the bean sprouts, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, scallions, and mushrooms. Set aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk the seltzer with the rice flour until a thin batter forms. Add the batter to the vegetables and stir until thoroughly combined. 

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat to 350°F.

Working in batches, use a ½-cup measure to scoop the vegetable batter into mounds and lower them into the hot oil, no more than three at a time. Try not to move the ukoy; you want the mixture to stay intact. Shallow-fry the vegetable fritters like latkes or potato pancakes until crispy, golden brown, and delicious, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Skim off any stray fried bits between batches.

Transfer the ukoy to a platter lined with paper towels to wick away the extra oil. Season with salt and serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

Chile-Vinegar Dipping sauce:

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, and chiles. Serve right away or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note:

Filipino Cane Vinegar — Datu Puti vinegar is a staple in Filipino kitchens. Made from sugarcane, it has an astringent flavor that gives Filipino foods, like adobo, that distinctive tang. You can even buy Datu Puti cane vinegar together with Datu Puti soy sauce on Amazon—kind of like a Filipino starter pack.

Yield: Makes 6-8 servings; makes about 1 cup Chile-Vinegar Dipping Sauce


Excerpted from AMBOY: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream © 2020 by Alvin Cailan. Photography © 2020 by Wyatt Conlon. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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