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.


Martha said...

Mary, even though books are copyrighted I'm not sure recipes can ever be -- one small change and it's a different recipe (my tuna nicoise that I did the other night -- no tomatoes and asparagus -- is it mine or really Ina's?)

Which is why I always share recipes -- there are no secrets for it is printed SOMEWHERE!

I'll have to make these fritters -- Jim loves Thai.

Argus Lou said...

Mmm... delicious! Incidentally, I wrote about some very similar fritters recently. Asian comfort food often involves (deep)frying and chilli sauce or coconut milk/palm sugar. :)

Mary Bergfeld said...

A very warm welcome to you Argus Lou. Your fritters, indeed your blog, look beautiful. I hope you'll come again.

Allie said...

They look delicious! Don't you hate when you work really hard on a recipe to enter and then someone else takes it and makes it popular? I guess I'm too nice to tell people where the recipe came from when they don't care they just want to name it their own. I always laugh at the old recipes people never remember then pass them on as something new when it's been around forever!

Cathy said...

I worked on compiling a cookbook for a farmer's market a few years ago and the issue of recipe ownership was a hot button.

Your fritters look heavenly, Mary. And Mae Ploy is my favorite dipping sauce.

Pam said...

I think I would have been annoyed to see that woman taking credit for your recipe. I think YOUR corn fritters look and sound amazing - the colors and flavors are outstanding.

Mary Bergfeld said...

It's nice to have friends! I just want you to keep in mind that what happened to me happens every day to lots of people. I was only momentarily bent out of shape. The real problem is the use of that word "my" and how self-important we/I have become. Fritters - even Thai fritters - are pretty generic. What I hated was the use of that damned stupid name I blurted out. I hate stupid!

Mila said...

I love how fresh these look! Beautiful photo!

Unknown said...

looks lovely... happy new year!!! :)

Mary Bergfeld said...

Mikky your photos are just beautiful! Thanks for visiting with us. Come back often.

dp said...

I've seen people post recipes for things like Thai curry paste or Indian curry and don't even mention where they get the recipe. These types of recipes have long lists of ingredients, some are hard to find. We all know they didn't come up with the recipe themselves. I make my own curry pastes regularly and I still look at the recipes to make sure I haven't forgotten anything, particularly if it's been a while. It's common courtesy to mention the source, even if the recipe has changed from the original. At least in some way acknowledge that the recipe came from somewhere else. *steps off soapbox*

I love Thai corn fritters and ate more than I should have during our last visit to Thailand :-) Seeing yours brings back good memories.

Anonymous said...

They look superb! My mom recently gave me a recipe for my Great Aunt's "special" ginger cookies...YEP, straight off of the molasses bottle! I'm sure she nor my aunt even realized it!

Mary Bergfeld said...

dp, thanks for joining in this discussion. It helps convince me I'm not nuts. For me the most irritating thing is not that recipes are copied, it's the thought they think it won't be noticed.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Your corn fritters look and sound delicious.
Recipes are meant to be shared but yes, if it is only right to credit the person whose recipe it is or who inspired the recipe.

Happy New Year and thanks for dropping by.

Peter M said...

Everyone gets inspiration, borrows an idea, adapts and on occasion, site a source.

Sadly some try to copy verbatim a dish and pass it off as their own.

I wonder about some blogs who NEVER cite a source or inspiration. Geniuses or lazy thieves?

Anyhow, the fritters are very colourful and I'm amazed it all holds together so well...nice one!

La Bella Cooks said...

It would be fun to find out where those family recipes that were passed down the lines actually came from! Whatever these are called, they look and sound delicious.

Anonymous said...

Oh that's a bummer. You are right ingredient lists cannot be copyrighted and all very special techniques and directions can be. But your fritters rock!

Mary Bergfeld said...

Bridgette, I agree. I'd love to be a food historian.

Anonymous said...

"Asian Hush Puppies" made me smile. Sounds cute :)

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