UKOY, A Serendipitous Find

I must admit: I can sit for hours reading what others might consider absolutely dry, uninspiring material. I’m talking about dictionaries, pages of instructions, those types of things. And that’s OK; every now and then I get rewarded.

Take UKOY, for example. I’ve been searching Malay and Indonesian cookbooks for any hints as to the origin of that delightful fritter made with shredded squash or sweet potatoes and small shrimps.


Once I encountered a list of Philippine food words supposedly derived from Chinese, and it included ukoy, but not much additional information aside from the description.

Well, the other day I was looking at an on-line catalog for rare seeds, and I found the answer to my ukoy question. It’s from Central America!

These squat little fruits are amazing! Gorgeously ribbed in the alternating high-low ribbing seen in other Central American squashes, the warted, flattened fruits appear in tones ranging from green to deep yellow.
Guicoy Squash

Adds This ancient variety is depicted in late Mayan pottery and was featured on a major Maya archeology website…  tend to top out just under 2 lbs, perfect for a small family.

Product Quantity Price
Guicoy Squash (10 seeds) (SQ276) $4.50

I’ve never seen this type of squash in any markets in the Philippines, and I’ve been to many. Early in my career, I worked for the information office of the Bureau of Animal Industry, Department of Agriculture. I loved my job so much, that I accepted every assignment… and thus was able to travel to much of the Philippines’ 7,107 islands.

The guicoy probably came to the Philippines via the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade.  If 17th century cooks in Manila and environs shredded the red guicoy and mixed it with small shrimps and other ukoy ingredients, they’d have gotten that characteristic orange color for the finished product, right?

Lookit !

Red Guicoy   says:
Red and green guicoy … are some native pumpkins cultivated by various Maya peoples.

Green Guicoy Pumpkin: Very Ancient!


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