Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Thai Corn Fritters
Several years ago I brought a batch of corn fritters to a potluck supper and there met a woman who was most curious as to how they were made. As I reheated them she jotted down the recipe and asked me to give it a more interesting name. Without too much thought I blurted out, "Asian Hush Puppies." Six months later I found the recipe bearing its new name and lacking mine in one of our smaller local newspapers. I also had the bad luck of hearing a guest, obviously delighted to see the fritters, say, "I love Dimitra's hush puppies." That started me to thinking. When is a recipe really your own? They say that there are five basic plot lines around which all stories develop. Are there a hundred source recipes that are parent to all others? How often do we see Ina doing Julia doing Larousse? Is there anyone who doesn't have a recipe for brownies or lemon bars they swear to be their own? You have to smile, but keep in mind the recipe police take this business very seriously. There are rules. One prestigious competition recently released rules so complicated you'll need a PhD just to sort them out. I'm going to enter out of sheer orneriness. The basic rule of thumb for originality is at least four changes to a "mother" recipe. It's actually hard to plagiarize a recipe. Ingredient lists are not subject to copyright but accompanying directions or descriptions can be. The very clever can claim loads of recipes as their own. Are there food lawyers to assist the food police? My corn fritters illustrate a problem not easily solved. They were probably the creation of a frugal pan ra ya (wife) and every Thai household had its own version of corn fritters. I suspect the French codified the recipe and travelers and soldiers carried their version of it home. I had them in a restaurant and this is "my" version of Thai Corn Fritters a.k.a. Asian Hush Puppies. I love to make them with fresh corn but thawed, frozen corn is an acceptable substitute. Rice flour binds the ingredients and helps them brown, but all-purpose flour can be substituted. Pimento is not a Thai ingredient; it's used here to provide a punch of color and it may be omitted. The fritters in the photograph are not fully cooked; one side was only lightly browned so you could see the "innards." These are an easy, fast and inexpensive treat.
Thai Corn Fritters
3 cups fresh or frozen, thawed corn
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 small bunch chopped cilantro
1 finely chopped scallion
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup chopped, drained pimento (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3/4 cup rice or all-purpose flour
2 eggs lightly beaten
4 tablespoons water
Vegetable oil for frying
Sweet chili sauce (i.e. Mae Ploy) for dipping
1) Place corn, garlic, cilantro, scallion, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, pimento, soy sauce, flour, eggs and water in a large bowl. Mix well. The mixture should be able to hold its shape with out being stiff. Add more flour if needed.
2) Cover bottom of a large skillet with oil. Place on a burner over medium-high heat and cook until it shimmers. Drop 1/4 cup mounds of batter into oil and round with a spoon. Cook until a very light golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with sweet chili sauce. Yield: 12 fritters.