What are hushpuppies?
Hushpuppies are delicious little fried balls made from yellow cornmeal and often served as an accompaniment to seafood. These delicious cornmeal deep-fried goodies are a classic in the homes of Southern United States.
What is cornmeal?
Corn is fundamental in the American kitchens and is widely used in its ground form also known as cornmeal.
As the name implies, cornmeal is a meal (coarse flour) ground from dry corn (maize) kernels. Cornmeal comes in three consistencies: fine, medium and coarsely ground cornmeal. Also depending on the type of corn, you may have white, yellow, and blue cornmeal.
Meal, unlike flour, is something that is not very finely ground. In general, meal refers to a ground form of grains in which even a finely ground texture will have slight coarseness whereas a flour is very fine and in a powdery form. Hushpuppies are made with finely ground yellow cornmeal.
What is the origin of hushpuppies?
Fables and tales revolving around the origin of hushpuppies are numerous and far more interesting. Though purported, there is a common theme running among some stories. They were basically served to hush the dogs and hence, named hushpuppies. The dogs were troubling fishers and hunters when they were frying fish or other seafood in the open fire. In order to calm them down, they would simply fry small balls of corn batter in the same oil and serve it to the dogs. Similarly, during the civil war, confederate soldiers would feed these fried corn batters to hush the dogs if they heard their opponents approaching them.
There is a completely different story spun in New Orleans. It is said that the French nuns taught the locals how to make cornmeal patties and called them croquettes de maise. But this story doesn’t explain us how or why these croquettes were called hushpuppies.
Well, the list of tales is endless and these few above-mentioned are commonly told. Apparently not just hushpuppies but many Southern dishes revolve around such amusing and fascinating folklore!
Even before the term hushpuppy was coined, fried bread or cornbread was common in the America Southern cuisine. The most popular one was known as red horse bread, made by Romey Govens, a former slave who settled in the riverside of South Carolina. To earn his living he started selling fries made from the locally available fish variety called red horse. He served these fried fish with deep-fried cornmeal bread on the side and the bread came to be known as red horse bread.
Red horse bread could perhaps be a predecessor to the hushpuppies. As it became so popular, so many variations of the recipe started appearing in other Southern states and they were called in different names. In Florida, it is called wampus or red devils and three-finger bread in Georgia.
Regardless of the stories spun around its origin, hushpuppy has strong emotional ties with the people of the Southern United States. Hushpuppy is merely not a food to the Southerners; it is a comfort food, which brings back memories close to home and hushpuppies championships are held in Texas annually.
How to make hushpuppies
A traditional hushpuppy recipe is rather easy. It was made of yellow cornmeal, eggs, and flour. Eventually additional flavors like garlic, onions, jalapeño and spring onions have been added to the basic batter to create variations.
How to serve hushpuppies
As the stories of the origin of hushpuppies hint, they are generally paired with fried seafood or with barbecues. But these nuggets are so delicious as is and they can be had as an appetizer or snack without any accompaniments.
Cornmeal is heavily used in the States. It is often used in making breads like cornbread, johnnycake and spoonbread. Cornmeal is the main ingredient in making popular snacks like Cheetos and corn chips such as Fritos. Grits, a thick porridge type dish is made with boiled cornmeal and a similar type of porridge, cornmeal mush, is also commonly prepared.
Cornmeal recipes around the world
Next to the United States, South & Central American, as well as African cuisines often use cornmeal in their cooking. Popular cornmeal based dishes in Latin American countries are polenta, fuba (Brazilian cornmeal cake) and arepa (cornmeal patties). In Africa, it is used in making dishes like mielie-meal (flatbread), ugali (boiled cornmeal dough), and uji (a type of porridge).
Europe and Asia also have their share of cornmeal recipes. In Europe, each region has its own version of cornbread (mchadi in Georgia) and porridge (kačamak in Bulgaria & Serbia).
In India and Pakistan, makki di roti (unleavened cornmeal bread) is a common dish. In Northern China, wowotou, (slightly sweet, and steamed cornmeal dumplings) and cornmeal congee are common.
- 1½ cup yellow cornmeal
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg, milk and onion and add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well.
In a large cast iron or electric skillet, heat a large volume of oil to 350 F (175 C).
- Place the dough one tablespoonful at a time in the hot oil.
- Fry until golden brown.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Serve hot.