In Which Old-School Shrimp Fritters Take Center Stage…

Anyone up for a shrimp fritter - or two?

One of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life is a large shrimp fritter referred to locally as okoy.  Well, shrimp fritter would actually be both a misnomer and an understatement as the best examples of this dish are huge patties or frittatas that are roughly about a half-foot in diameter, studded with shrimp on every visible surface.

Originally, these fritters were only made in fishing communities by the shores of Laguna Lake and hibe, tiny freshwater shrimps, were the only permissible seafood for them.  Over time, though, the popularity of these fritters spread to other parts of the country and the shrimps were augmented with the addition of sliced onions (both onion bulbs and spring onions), mung bean sprouts, and grated squash, resulting in a fritter similar to Japanese kakiage.  In some parts of the country, fresh dilis [anchovies] or dulong [goby fry] are used instead of shrimp.  Deplorably, even vegetarians have jumped onto the okoy bandwagon by replacing the seafood with either finely diced momengoshi tofu or – horrors! – shredded vegemeat.  (Eww!)

I wasn't kidding when I said the shrimp covered EVERY available surface...

There are also different methods by which okoy are cooked.  The most popular involves chucking the tiny shrimp (or anchovies) and any vegetables into a batter made with eggs and a combination of salt, pepper, wheat flour, and rice flour or cornstarch.  This method is normally used by home cooks preparing okoy as the main dish for a family meal.

Another, and this is one usually done by people who prepare okoy as a cocktail snack, calls for the making of a very thin batter which is poured into circles onto a very hot greased pan.  The shrimp – and only shrimp are used here – are simply sprinkled onto one side of the fritter, then turned over to crisp up.

 

Here's lunch!

While I sometimes grab an okoy from one of the snack stalls at the bus stop to munch on the ride home, I seriously prefer to have my fritter served up with a cup of rice, a small bowl of soup, and a small bowl of sinamak or sukang kinurat (chili and garlic-infused white vinegar) where I can add a welcome tang to each crispy, crunchy, savory bite.