Kwek kwek (pronounced “keh keh”) is one of those dishes that most Filipinos love so much they would eat it even if there was no other option available.
It’s made from deep-fried chicken or duck meatballs coated with egg and breadcrumbs before being fried again until golden brown.
The end result is a delicious snack that has been around since colonial times.
The name itself translates to “chicken cracker”, but this isn’t just any old cracker – it’s an addictive treat which many people have tried their hands at making themselves.
It might be hard for beginners to get right though as there are plenty of different recipes out there, each claiming its own version of the original dish.
In this article we show you everything you need to know about the history behind kwek kwek, what makes it special, and how to cook up your very own batch.
What Are The Main Ingredients In A Kwek Kwek Recipe?
As mentioned above, kwek kwek consists of two parts: the filling and the coating.
These are both essential to create the authentic flavor of kwek kwek.
- Chicken – You want to use fresh, uncooked chicken breast fillets for kwek kwek because it contains the highest amount of collagen when compared to other meats like beef, pork, and fish. Collagen helps keep skin firm and elastic while also improving blood circulation by preventing blood pooling. When cooking kwek kwek, it’s important not to overcook the chicken as it becomes dry and tough. If possible, buy frozen boneless chicken breasts instead of whole raw ones.
- Egg – Eggs contain protein, fat, vitamins A & D, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus, niacin, iron, zinc, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and copper. They provide us with energy and help our bodies function properly. Egg yolks also contain choline, biotin, and folate which aid digestion and brain development. Eggs are an integral part of kwek kwek because they act as a binding agent between the rice flour and crumb coatings. Make sure to use eggs that are free range or organic where possible.
- Rice Flour – Rice flour is used as a thickening agent to bind together the mixture of spices and seasonings. While all kinds of flours work well, using white or glutinous rice flour is best because it doesn’t absorb moisture from the frying oil. To prevent clumping, add water slowly into the flour mix.
- Spices/Seasonings – Spices and seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, salt, sugar, sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, coriander leaves, chili flakes, soy sauce, vinegar, and oyster sauce are added to enhance the taste of the finished product. All these ingredients help bring out the sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami flavors within the kwek kwek.
How Long Does It Take To Prepare Kwek Kwek?
Depending on the size of the batch, preparing kwek kwek usually takes anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
If you want to speed things along, you could opt to buy pre-made kwek kwek pieces instead of cooking them yourself – these come vacuum sealed already ready to pop into the frying pan after opening.
Step by step instructions
Preparing kwek kwek is quite straightforward.
Start off by cutting up a whole chicken breast and removing all the bones.
You can either use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead if you prefer.
Next, cut two medium sized onions into half moons.
Slice them lengthwise down the middle, then slice through the onion halves vertically to create four thin slices.
Repeat the process with another onion and place both sets aside.
To make the breading mixture, mix together one cup of flour, three teaspoons of salt, one tablespoon of sugar, and one teaspoon of baking powder.
Next, add the beaten eggs to the bowl and whisk well to combine.
Now heat the oil over high heat until it reaches 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 C).
Once hot enough, toss the sliced onions in the flour mixture to coat evenly.
Then dip the onions into the egg mixture and roll them around to cover completely in coating.
Finally, drop the onions back into the flour mixture and repeat the process twice more.
After rolling the onions in the flour mixture once more, put them onto a plate covered with paper towels.
Put the seasoned flour mixture in a shallow container and set it near the stovetop.
When the oil begins to bubble rapidly, carefully remove the kwek kwek pieces from the oil using tongs and transfer them to the seasoned flour mixture.
Coat the kwek kwek pieces completely in the seasoned flour mixture to prevent sticking.
Once they’re fully coated, return them to the plate.
Place the plate containing the floured kwek kwek pieces inside the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the plates from the oven and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks to finish drying out.
What Is The Traditional Way Of Serving Kwek Kwek?
This is where things start getting interesting.
As mentioned earlier, kwek kwek usually comes served on a plate alongside various condiments such as soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste, mayonnaise, and sweet soy sauce.
There is also always a generous amount of rice scattered across the top, giving the whole thing a nice bit of texture.
If you want to serve kwek kwek like everybody else, then here’s our step by step guide on how to do it properly.
Step 1: Cut the chicken into bite size pieces.
You don’t need to cut them too thin because the final product won’t look pretty when cooked.
Just slice through the flesh in order to create the shape of chicken nuggets.
Step 2: Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly.
Step 3: Add water gradually while mixing well. If you use too little water, the mixture will not stick together. On the other hand, using too much water means the batter will get runny and fall apart easily.
Step 4: Heat a wok over medium heat. Once hot enough, pour in some oil. Use high temperature cooking oil otherwise the kwek kwek will burn quickly.
Step 5: When the oil starts smoking, add the kwek kwek mixture and fry till the bottom turns light brown.
Step 6: Flip the kwek kwek over and repeat steps four and five. Repeat the process until the entire batch is done frying.
When the final batch is ready, remove them from the pan and drain off excess oil.
Step 7: Place the kwek kwek onto a clean plate lined with paper towels. Serve immediately while still warm.
What Are Some Of The Variations Of Kwek Kwek?
There are several ways to enjoy kwek kwek, including kwek kwek pizza, kwek kwek burger, and kwek kwek noodles.
If you want to try something new and unique, then these are also good options.
You could even use kwek kwek meatballs instead of deep frying them whole.
You may also like trying kwek kwek rolls.
These are small pieces of dough wrapped around a piece of kwek kwek.
You can find these sold by vendors along streets and markets across the country.
Another popular variation of kwek kwek is kwek kwek fries.
Instead of being served on a plate, kwek kwek fries are put into a bowl of soup and eaten together with rice.
If you don’t feel like having anything else, then this is still a great alternative choice.
How Can You Make Kwek Kwek Healthier?
If you’re looking to make kwek kwek more nutritious, then consider adding extra vegetables such as spinach leaves or tomatoes into your mix along with some spices like turmeric or cayenne pepper.
You could also use low sugar versions of flour and baking powder when preparing the kwek kwek mixture instead of regular white flour.
You may want to swap the normal amount of oil used to fry them too, opting for coconut oil instead.
Another good idea is to add in less salt than usual.
If you’re using salted fish flakes to flavor the kwek kwek batter, try to find ones without added salt.
Alternatively, you could soak dried shrimp to use instead.
Try these 5 healthy alternatives to kwek kwek
Here are five alternative ways to enjoy the kwek kwek experience while keeping things on track in terms of nutrition and taste.
1. Try making kwek kwek with eggs that are scrambled rather than fried.
Eggs that are not boiled first should only be cooked by frying the yolks separately.
Then beat together the whites, the whole egg, and the rest of the ingredients listed below except the sesame seeds.
Once mixed well, put small amounts onto greased paper wrappers and lightly press down to form flat circles.
When ready to serve, brush off excess moisture with a damp cloth and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Repeat the process until all the kwek kwek are assembled and served.
Serve with sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and/or calamansi juice.
2. Make your own kwek kwek balls with canned tuna
Canned tuna works perfectly here because it adds additional protein to the mix, plus it helps bind the wet ingredients better.
Mix the water, flour, baking powder, tomato paste, and seasonings together.
Add enough water to create a thick batter and set aside.
Mix the ground beef crumbles into the flour batter and combine thoroughly.
Add the chopped onion and garlic and stir through gently.
Divide into portions and roll into round shapes slightly smaller than golf ball size.
Press into shallow bowls and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking, discarding the liquid left over.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil per bowl in a wok or large skillet.
Heat 3 inches of oil until hot and carefully drop in the tuna shaped balls.
Fry until golden brown on both sides.
Drain on absorbent paper towels and serve immediately with sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and calamansi juice.
3. Create your own kwek kwek bites with ground pork
This variation uses ground pork instead of the standard minced chicken meat, giving the kwek kwek bite a little bit of extra oomph.
Follow the steps above, except substitute 1 pound ground pork for the chicken mince.
Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes before removing from oven to cool completely.
4. How to make kwek kwek with rice noodles
Rice noodles have become popular lately thanks to the Asian cuisine trend sweeping across America.
They work particularly well for kwek kwek because they keep the texture of the dough soft and tender while retaining a nice chewiness once baked.
- ½ cup uncooked jasmine rice
- ¾ cup boiling water
- ⅓ cup finely diced shallot
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger root
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- ½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
5. Go ahead and cheat
If you don’t feel like taking the time to make the real thing, there is nothing wrong with buying pre-made kwek kwek either.
Many supermarkets now sell prepackaged versions of the dish that are much easier to grab and go than trying to whip up something homemade.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Kwek Kwek?
As mentioned earlier, kwek kwek is a popular snack among Filipinos, especially kids.
There are countless ways to enjoy them and what better than by diving into the tasty concoction yourself?
There are numerous studies on the health benefits of having kwek kwek regularly, including the fact that it helps keep blood pressure under control, reduces stress levels, improves brain function, provides antioxidants, and more.
For example, a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming kwek kwek twice per week could help reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
In addition, another study conducted by researchers at the University of Western Australia revealed that regular consumption of kwek kwek may lower the risk of cancer development.
Although these findings aren’t conclusive yet, it shows us how important it is not only to eat well, but also maintain our diet through healthy snacks like kwek kwek.
And yes, it tastes great too!
What Kind Of Dipping Sauces Go Best With Kwek Kwek?
There aren’t really too many options when it comes to dipping sauces for kwek kwek.
The easiest thing to do is stick with plain water or maybe add a little bit of tomato sauce for extra flavor.
However, if you want to spice things up then here are a few ideas on how to improve upon your usual kwek kwek experience.
Soy Sauce Dip
This dip uses soy sauce instead of water to coat the kwek kwek balls.
You could also use regular white vinegar if you don’t mind getting all over your fingers.
Just remember not to let them sit in the mixture too long because the soy sauce will start to curdle.
Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
If you like more heat than you usually do then try adding chili paste into the mix.
If using canned peanut butter then skip the blending step and simply stir it in once the oil starts to simmer.
When cooking fresh peanuts, you should grind them first by pounding them down into a fine powder before mixing them with sugar, salt, pepper and garlic.
Add these ingredients to the oil after heating the pan, then fry them together before setting aside.
Thai Spiced Sweet Chili Dressing
Instead of using vinegar or water to dip your kwek kwek, you could opt for something a little sweeter like Thai sweet chili dressing.
Simply combine three parts of mayonnaise, one part of honey and two parts of hot peppers.
Mix well before stirring through half cup of chopped green onions and a dash of sesame seeds.
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Another tasty topping for dipping is honey mustard sauce.
Combine equal amounts of mayo, mustard and a pinch of black pepper.
Stir well and set aside while frying the kwek kwek.
What Is The Best Way To Ensure That The Kwek Kwek Batter Stays Crispy
When cooking kwek kwek, the key is to keep the temp low enough to prevent the dough from overcooking and burning.
To do this, use oil on top of the frying pan instead of directly on the flame because the high heat could cause the fat to break down too quickly.
If your kitchen setup doesn’t allow for direct contact between the fryer and the stovetop, then put a metal rack over the burner and place your skillet on top of the rack.
Alternatively, you can also pour hot water into the bottom of the skillet to create steam to protect the surface area from direct contact with the flames.
Once you’re done with the initial frying process, turn off the gas valve and let the oil cool down before pouring it all out.
Repeat the same procedure for subsequent batches.
- 1 Bowl
- 1 Pan
- 10 pieces quail eggs boiled
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 3/4 to 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp anatto powder pinulbos
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups cooking oil
- Put the boiled quail eggs in a jar and cover with cornflour. Place aside.
- Flour, salt, and pepper should be completely mixed in a bowl.
- Warm water should be used to dilute the anatto powder before adding it to the bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix well.
- In the mixing bowl, add all of the quail eggs, and then cover with the batter.
- Pour cooking oil into the hot pan.
- When the oil is hot enough, scoop the quail eggs out of the mixing dish and deep-fry them. Make sure the batter is evenly applied to each.
- Remove the fried quail eggs from the pan and set them on a serving plate after a few minutes.
- While still crunchy, serve with vinegar or fish ball sauce.
- Enjoy and share!