For someone named after a brand of electric fan, chef “Tatung” Sarthou (real name Michael Giovan Sarthou III), is creating more than cool air.
In fact he’s creating heat—in the kitchen, that is. An advocate of culinary heritage cooking, Sarthou prepares traditional Filipino recipes using ingredients that are available, sustainable and locally produced. For him it’s a matter of developing Filipino cuisine “in the context of what’s applicable to our life.”
“Sometimes we tend to overthink things,” he said during his recent cooking demonstration at the Maya Kitchen Culinary Center. “Why do we have to complicate our lives?”
Instead, he thinks it’s as simple as “if you can boil water, you can cook.”
Cooking is what Chef Tatung inspires people to do in his cookbook “Filipino Cookery from Heart to Platter,” recently published by ABS-CBN Publishing. In it, he explores the history of Filipino cuisine and the evolution of cooking methods.
Here’s his recipe for shrimp and vegetable ukoy, which he demonstrated at the Maya Kitchen.
8-10 stems spring onions, cut into one-inch pieces
1 c small fresh shrimps, whiskers trimmed, washed and drained
2 – 2½ c cooking oil
Make the batter:
Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and pepper in a large bowl. Pour in the water and fish sauce, then add the annatto oil. Stir until all ingredients are well-blended. Mixture should have a thick consistency.
Cook the ukoy:
Add vegetables and shrimps to the prepared batter. Mix well. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottom frying pan. The oil should be at least an inch high.
When the oil is sufficiently hot, scoop the batter by large spoonfuls (or use a ¼ cup measure) and drop into the hot oil. Use only medium heat so the inside of the batter gets cooked while the outside remains crisp. Do this in batches; do not overcrowd the frying pan. Fry each batch until golden brown. Transfer the cooked ukoy to a plate lined with paper towels or absorbent paper. Makes about 10-12 ukoy.
Serve immediately with vinegar and garlic dip.
You can make your own annatto oil by mixing 1 tablespoon powdered annatto (atsuete) with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Mama Sita brand of powdered annatto is available in the condiments and spices section of supermarkets.
Chef Tatung says use bean sprouts (togue) for the batter only if the ukoy will be served immediately. Bean sprouts tend to make the ukoy soggy, so if you won’t serve this right away, omit the bean sprouts.
For best results use fresh cooking oil (not oil that has been previously used).