It’s only been two weeks since I took a trip down memory-lane with my grandmother’s chicken hearts recipe. Revisiting that family favourite and writing that blog-entry opened up a Pandora’s (lunch)box of memories of my oma’s cooking. In that post, I wrote chicken hearts are definitely a family favourite, but, of course, there are many other favourites as well (isn’t it common knowledge that anything any grandmother cooks is a family-favourite?). These Indonesian corn fritters, known as frikadel djagung, or simply maiskoekjes in The Netherlands and perkedel jagung, or bakwan jagung in Indonesia, definitely are another well-loved snack in my family… and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be in yours too.
While pan-fried chicken hearts might not make everyone salivate, I cannot possibly imagine anyone not liking these golden, toasty clouds of deep-fried corn over here. You can enjoy them hot, or cold; as a side dish, or snack; eat them at lunchtime, dinnertime, or straight from the fridge as a midnight nibble (oops…guilty!). The recipe below makes about 15 corn fritters, which generally means they are meant ‘to share’, or ‘to make several batches to eat over the next few days’ (yes, you can freeze them too), but I wouldn’t blame you if none of that happened.
you can add various flavourful extras
The basic recipe for these fritters involves corn (either fresh or canned), flour (plain wheat flour, or a mixture of wheat and rice flour), one egg, and usually some chopped leaf celery (‘some’ meaning ‘a lot’ in my family). Of course, you can add various flavourful extras to give these fritters a little spin of your own: some people add curcuma for extra color, some add chilies and/or ginger for a little bit of a kick, while others opt for a full blend of aromatics such as curcuma, chilies, onions, ground coriander seeds, candlenuts and galangal…while all of these are very delicious, my grandmother would claim “that’s not how it’s supposed to be”. You do you.
Whatever ingredients you decide to add, most important is the balance between the main ingredients and consistency of the batter: the best fritters consist of mostly corn (or any vegetable) combined with only the smallest amount of flour and egg necessary to bind all the ingredients together. In order to get the most out of the corn and use as little flour as possible, my grandmother always mashed up the corn kernels until most of them had turned into a coarse mush with a few kernels remaining intact for texture. The mushy starchy corn mixture gives you fritters that are soft and moist on the inside, crisp and golden on the outside, and bursting with a lot of sweet corn-y goodness rather than fried doughyness. Traditionally the ‘mushing’ is done with a cobek and ulekan (mortar and pestle), but an immersion blender works just as well.
My oma liked to keep things simple and stuck to that basic combination of corn (usually canned), plain flour, (lots of) leaf celery and some garlic for flavour… and she probably used that immersion blender too. A bit less ‘basic’ was her choice (or lack thereof) for the shape of her fritters. Most people opt for a flattened, round, pancake-y type of shape (including my mother – usually), because it means more consistent shapes and less oil and time for frying. My oma liked to fry things in a wok, which generally resulted in slightly ‘puffier’ fritters of more-or-less random shapes with soft, moist centers and extra-crispy pointy crackly bits (the best parts) all around the exterior from the batter slightly warping and floating around in the oil.
Having fond memories of my grandmother’s odd-shaped fritters, I prefer those puffy ones with their gnarly bits the best, but to be totally honest, it doesn’t really matter whether you make them flat as a pancake, or puffy and round – fried corn is fried corn and fried corn is delicious!
Tip #1: Make sure your oil is hot enough to almost instantly fry the outside of the soft batter, but not so hot that the frying and bubbling of the oil breaks up the shape of the soft batter. Oil that is too hot and too bubbly might make the batter fall apart and disintegrate into small pieces, rather than a coherent shape. You might also risk burning the outside of the fritter while the inside remains uncooked.
Tip #2: You don’t necessarily need to use a wok for ‘rounder’ shaped puffy fritters, you can use a small saucepan, or small, high-rimmed frying pan instead – you just need to make sure the oil is up to a certain level (a few centimeters deep) that allows the fritters to float.
Perkedel Jagung / Bakwan Jagung / Frikadel Djagung (Indonesian Corn Fritters)
- 2 – 3 uncooked corn on the cob (about 400g corn kernels), or the same amount canned corn
- 25g leaf celery
- 80g all-purpose wheat flour, or more to bind the mixture
- 1 large egg
- 2 cloves of garlic, pressed (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Sunflower oil for frying (about 600ml to 1l for a small, high-rimmed saucepan)
- (see post above for optional flavourings and aromatics)
- Prepare the corn-base: Cut the corn from the cob, or drain the liquid from the canned corn. With a food processor, or immersion blender, process the corn into a chunky mush, making sure some of the kernels stay (partly) intact. Transfer to a bowl.
- Prepare the batter and add flavourings: Wash the leaf celery and chop finely. Add chopped leaf celery to the bowl with the corn followed by the egg, flour, pepper, salt and pressed garlic. Stir to combine. The mixture should be thick, but slightly wet and just bind together (see photo in post). Depending on the liquid in the corn, the mixture can be slightly too wet and not hold together well in the oil (make 1 tester fritter to test the batter!). If the mixture is too wet, add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of flour until the ingredients bind together better, but try not to add too much.
- Fry the fritters: In a wok, or high-rimmed sauce-, or frying pan, heat up sunflower oil on medium-high heat*. Make sure the oil is deep enough for the fritters to float slightly (about 3 - 4cm deep). When the oil is hot, gently lower about a heaped regular tablespoon of the mixture per fritter into the oil. Fry the fritters until golden brown on all sides (takes around 3 - 4 minutes).