If I must pick two of the most popular side dishes/savory treats that seem to be sold everywhere in Indonesia, then I will have to settle for perkedel kentang (potato fritters) and followed closely by bakwan jagung (corn fritters).
Both are delicious and the smell of these can make you feel hungry instantly even after a full course meal.
For those who want to learn to cook Indonesian dishes at home, any of the two is a great dish to start. They are both not spicy, and the ingredients are common anywhere in the world. I am confident that anyone who wants to prepare Indonesian food in their kitchen should be able to make either one in their home.
Indonesian corn fritters are made from fresh corn, eggs, shallots, garlic, scallion, celery, all-purpose flour, rice flour, salt, ground white pepper, and ice cold water.
Fresh corn, frozen corn, and canned corn
It is best if you can use fresh corn, but you can also use frozen corn or canned corn when fresh corn is not available.
On average, one fresh corn yields a 3⁄4 cup of kernels. So for this recipe, you will need 2 1⁄4 cup of corn kernels.
If you use frozen corn, be sure to thaw and drain off any excess liquid and pat the kernels with kitchen towel before using.
For canned corn, please drain and pat dry as best as you can. Since the liquid in canned corn contains salt, you may want to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe from 1 1⁄2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon.
Chinese celery vs. regular US celery
Chinese celery is more readily available compared to regular celery in Indonesia, so most Indonesians prefer using Chinese celery to prepare corn fritters.
You can substitute Chinese celery with regular US celery. Chinese celery has a stronger flavor, so you will miss some of that flavor when using regular celery. But you will still end up with delicious corn fritters even with regular celery.
Rice flour and its substitute
Rice flour makes the corn fritters crispy. You can substitute rice flour with an equal amount of tapioca starch.
If you don’t have any rice flour or tapioca starch at home, you can also use the same amount of all-purpose flour, but know that the corn fritters will be less crispy.
For fresh corns, please place a small ramekin inside a large mixing bowl. Stand each ear of corn on the small ramekin, and use a sharp knife to scrape off the kernels. The kernels will fall into the mixing bowl without making a mess. Throw away the cobs.
If you are using frozen corn or canned corn, be sure to pat dry the corn kernels first before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Add minced shallot, minced garlic, thinly sliced scallion, thinly sliced celery, and eggs into the mixing bowl. Add also all-purpose flour, rice flour, salt, ground white pepper, and ice-cold water. Mix gently with a spatula into a thick batter.
For the crispiest possible corn fritters, it is best if you can keep the batter as cold as possible. I always chill the batter in the fridge while I prepare the hot oil for deep frying.
The best pot/pan for deep-frying is a cast-iron skillet/pot or a Dutch oven since it will retain heat better and make sure the oil temperature stays where we want it.
Choose an oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut oil or canola oil. Fill the pot with about two inches of oil and turn the heat to medium. Wait until the oil is hot before frying the fritters.
When the oil is hot, a bamboo chopstick lowers into it will have air bubbles around it. The oil will also register 170 Celsius/340 Fahrenheit on a thermometer.
Drop ladleful of batter into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes each side.
You can fry several fritters per batch, but don’t overcrowd the pot. Doing so can lower the oil temperature and you end up with greasy fritters.
Please drain fried fritters on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Draining fritters on paper towels will make them soggier compared to a wire rack.
If you have leftover corn fritters, you can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or free for longer storage.
Please thaw frozen fritters before reheating. Thaw frozen fritters for one hour on the kitchen countertop, or overnight in the fridge.
To make the fritters crispy again, try heating a small amount of oil in a frying pan and fry until hot and crispy.
You don’t need to make the whole recipe if you don’t plan to serve the fritters to a lot of people. One fresh corn (1⁄3 recipe) is good for 2-4 people, two fresh corn (2⁄3 recipe) for 4-6 people, and the full recipe for 6-8 people.
The above numbers assume that you are feeding a horde of super hungry people. On average, the full recipe should be enough for 10-12 people.
There are other varieties of bakwan that you can make with this basic recipe. Just substitute corn with the same amount of other vegetables (or mixed vegetables) of your choice.
Popular ingredients include shredded cabbage, carrot julienne, green bean julienne, mung beans sprouts, thinly sliced blanched cauliflower/broccoli, and even roughly chopped shrimp just to name a few.
If you like this recipe, you may want to give my bakwan sayur (vegetable fritters) recipe a try.