Crunchy Coconut Corn Fritters
The combination of corn and coconut is something that will always remind me of childhood. One of my favorite East African dishes growing up is called makai paka. It’s basically sweet corn on the cob simmered in a creamy, coconut-based broth with turmeric, garlic, green chilies, and cilantro. The fun was in eating the corncobs; you could suck out the spicy coconut curry absorbed into the cobs, making ridiculous slurping noises. Not something I can quite get away with these days…
Corn seems like a New World food, but it was brought to the African continent by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. Whether in South African mealies, West African maïs grille (basically grilled corn), or East Africa’s ugali, corn figures prominently. In Ghana, the coconut/corn combo pops back up in a dish called abrow ne kokosi, where corn kernels are simmered in coconut milk with fresh pieces of coconut flesh. Delicious.
I wanted to see the combo in a more familiar form, something easy to eat or serve as a snack to guests. These fritters come out surprisingly light, not overpoweringly coconut-ey, and have a sweet and savoury quality to them. With all of the beautiful summer corn, it’s also a great way to use up any leftovers you might have sitting around. The fritters work really well with a cilantro aioli or even a spicy ketchup dipping sauce. Enjoy!
Yields approximately 2 dozen fritters
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp cayenne
½ cup coconut milk
a few dashes of hot sauce
1 ½ tbsps butter, melted
1 ¼ cups fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1 cup frozen, grated unsweetened coconut, thawed
¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp green chilies, finely minced (optional)
In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cayenne. In another bowl, beat together egg, coconut milk, hot sauce, and butter. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until it comes together. Don’t overmix. Fold in remaining ingredients.
In a large heavy saucepan, dutch oven, or deepfryer, heat about 4 inches of vegetable oil to 325° F. Carefully, drop spoonfuls of the batter and cook until golden brown, working in batches. Remove to a towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt.
A few things: (1) don’t overcrowd because it will bring the oil temperature too far down, and (2) be careful – it splatters when cooking.
Serve warm with a dipping sauce of your choice…