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.
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):
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]):
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)...
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.