Last year I wrote a post on this book “Martinis and Aprons” which was a collection of entertaining tips, food trivia and and recipes from many ladies and gentlemen of note. It was a fund raiser for a shelter for battered women and children. One of the recipes in that book, for bottle gourd fries or Boo-Thee-Gyaw by Wynn Wynn Ong was mentioned in the post or by commenters on that post. Instead of bottle gourd, sayote could also be used as the substitute ingredient. I never tried the recipe, probably because I saw no reason to substitute potatoes in my fries, but that wasn’t the point at all. They are absolutely delicious as sayote fries, period. A few weeks ago, a gentleman from Louisiana trying to come up with recipes to use merliton (sayote) to revive the planting and sale of the produce and making sure there were end uses, contacted me about the sayote fries so I decided to try the Ong recipe for myself. Well, nothing could be easier, and they were so incredibly tasty. A very economical dish, with flavors and satisfaction worth much more than the cost and effort to pull it all together.
Simply peel and slice a large sayote (chayote, merliton) as you would a potato for fries. Next, make a light batter with 1 cup of fine ground rice flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, a teaspoon of salt, just under a teaspoon of ground turmeric and just enough ICE water to make a smooth batter. It shouldn’t be too thick, nor too runny. Drop your sayote into this mixture and pop it into the fridge to chill until just ready to cook and serve.
Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. The dipping sauce is essential to the success of this dish. Much of the flavor comes from the sauce. In a mortar, add 1-2 cloves of slow roasted garlic (I had no patience, so I took two cloves of garlic with their peel still on, popped them onto the floor of a hot oven that I was using to bake chicken, and removed them 2-3 minutes later). Peel the garlic and start from there. Add 5 pieces coriander root, 2-3 pieces of siling labuyo for heat or spice and smash this up for a few seconds. Add a couple of tablespoons of thai fish sauce (patis), a teaspoon of kikkoman or other light soy sauce, not heavy lorins or similar pinoy toyo, 1 tablespoon rice vinegr, 3 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon sugar and the juice of 2-3 kaffir limes or dayap. Add chopped coriander leaves for more flavor and color.
Next, heat up some oil for frying and fry the sayote for a few minutes until it just begins to get a nice golden color. Drain on paper towels and serve with the sauce on the side. They are surprisingly CRISP and delicious. They do get soft after a few minutes sitting around, but so do regular fries in this country’s humid weather. Everyone in the house (except maybe the Teen) loved this dish. Don’t think of them as substitutes for potato fries, just think of them as sayote fries with a wonderful dip. Excellent. The recipe is credited to Ms. Ong completely.
P.S. You will have extra batter left over. If you really like the fries, slice up another sayote and cook some more with the same batter. :)