These Thai corn fritters (tod man khao pod) are addictively tasty little bites, packed with corn and flavored with bright lime leaves and red curry paste. They're easy to make, naturally gluten free and perfect for snacking on, or as part of an appetizer.
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I don't know about you, but I'm definitely a fan of sharing a few smaller bites to start when we go out for dinner. There's something about being able to try a few things that makes you feel like you get that bit more out of your meal. Or maybe it just takes the pressure off narrowing down your choice a little.
Whatever the reason, these are the sort of bite that are a classic in the choices if you have a Thai meal, and for good reason. They're packed with flavor, but not too filling, so whet your appetite for whatever comes next.
Practically, I'm sure most of us have less time to make appetizers before meals at home most of the time, but these are ones to find time to make. Whether as a snack or before a meal, we're big fans and I'm hoping if you try them, you'll soon agree.
Corn in Thai food
While corn is not native to Thailand (it originates in the Americas), these days it is a major crop in the country. Some of that is because it is a large exporter of canned corn, but you will also find it as an ingredient in a number of Thai dishes.
Baby corn is popular in some stir fries, then larger sweet corn can be added to soups, curries and other dishes. Corn also gets it's chance to shine in a few ways, too. It's popular as a snack, both as these fritters and served as whole grilled cobs. You might also have it as a salad, in a similar style to Thai green papaya salad, but simply switching the base ingredient.
These fritters are up there as a favorite for me, both for the flavors and textures. And my kids love the excuse to dip them in sweet chili sauce (and I can't say I blame them).
Ingredients and substitutions
These fritters have just a few ingredients, that are mostly easy to find, if not in your local store then in an Asian supermarket:
- Corn - fresh corn is far and away the best choice here. It has a much better texture and flavor. Canned, and sometimes frozen corn, is cooked before preserving. This If you can't find fresh, frozen is the next best, however. While not all recipes do so, I have opted to both blend some of the corn and leave some whole. This gives plenty corn flavor, but also balance the texture.
- Rice flour - this acts as the glue and also absorbs moisture from the corn and egg. Rice flour is gluten free and also heavier than wheat flour, so you need less of it, which helps it not take over flavor or texture-wise. If you don't have rice flour, corn starch (corn flour) would be a better substitute than wheat flour. You could also use a mix. With any flour substitution, you are unlikely to be able to substitute 1:1, so adjust as you go.
- Thai red curry paste - this is readily available these days and great to have on hand for various dishes. If you don't have, then you can skip it and maybe add a little chopped spring onion and/or cilantro instead. While they won't be the same, they are at least an alternative flavoring you may find.
- Makrut lime leaves (also known as kaffir lime leaves) - these add a wonderful bright fresh citrus flavor that you find in a number of Southeast Asian dishes. Unfortunately, I have been finding lime leaves a little harder to find recently, but they are worth hunting down. You might find them in a jar which, while not as good as fresh, would be better than nothing - I would just use a little less. Failing both, some lime zest is the next best substitute.
- Egg - this primarily helps bind the ingredients together. If you want to make these vegan, you could skip and they should still work pretty well, they might just need a little less flour and/or add a little coconut milk to get the moisture level right.
- Baking powder - you only need a tiny amount here as these are not really meant to rise as such. It just helps give a slight lightness and adds to the crunch. You can skip this if you prefer.
Top tip: test one first
It's often a good idea to cook one fritter first as a test. This way, you can check the temperature and if you have the mixture right without wasting too much batter if it's not. If the fritter breaks up as you cook it, and especially if the batter seems quite liquid, try adding a little more rice flour.
If the fritters come out dense, and the batter seems stiff, you probably have too much flour. Since you can't take any out, your instead need slightly more liquid. Your best option is to add a little coconut milk, or even just water. Only a small amount, though, so you don't over-adjust.
Additional tips for making these fritters
Other than using fresh corn, and lime leaves, if at all possible, these come together pretty easily. However in addition to checking moisture level as described above, you should keep an eye on oil temperature.
You can deep fry or shallow fry these, but in both cases, the temperature is important. Make sure your oil is hot before you add the fritters. If it's not hot, they will just soak up the oil rather than cook properly. You can test by adding a tiny amount of batter, or even just a drop of water - it should sizzle. If not, wait a little longer.
Your oil needs to be hot enough that it crisps the fritters when you add the batter, but not so hot that it burns them instantly. You often just need to keep a close eye and adjust depending on how they seem to be cooking. The temperature may change over time.
Also, don't add too many fritters at once. The more you add, the more it reduces the oil temperature. This stops them cooking as well. It's also harder to keep track of them and turn them before some may burn.
With these few tips, you should be well on your way to some tasty fritters!
How to serve Thai corn fritters
In Thailand, these are most commonly eaten as a snack, but you can also serve them as an appetizer, as mentioned. You might have them as part of a platter, for example. They'd work well alongside some Thai shrimp fritters and maybe some salads like green papaya salad. You could also be made into a side for grilled chicken for example.
These fritters work really well dipped in sweet chili sauce (just as with shrimp fritters). If you don't like the sweetness, you could use sriracha instead.
Thai corn fritters are a delicious mix of gently sweet corn, bright lime leaves and a little spice kick from the curry paste. They have a great texture and make perfect snacking food. A fantastic way to use up some fresh corn when it's in season, or any excuse you like.
Try these other tasty savory bites:
- Chorizo al vino tinto (chorizo cooked in red wine - a great easy tapas)
- Baked mussels (a simple seafood appetizer of mussels topped with seasoned crumbs)
- Sausage rolls (a British classic of porky goodness wrapped in pastry)
- Plus get more appetizer recipes and Southeast Asian recipes in the archives.
Thai corn fritters
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels (2 cups is 2 medium-large ears of corn)
- 2 makrut lime leaves (also called kaffir lime leaves)
- ½ egg
- ½ tablespoon Thai red curry paste
- 5 tablespoon rice flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- vegetable oil or other non-reactive, minimally flavored oil for frying
- sweet chili sauce for serving
- Remove the corn kernels from the cobs. Divide in half, putting half (one cup) in a bowl and reserving the other half. Finely chop the lime leaves, removing the spine/rib down the middle as you go if it is tough. If not, you can just roll and thinly slice then chop a little more, if needed.
- Add the egg and That red curry paste to the corn in the bowl and blend them together with a stick/hand blender to a relatively smooth puree. (Alternatively, you can place all of these ingredients in a blender then transfer to a bowl, but it uses less bowls etc if you have a stick/hand blender.)
- Add the reserved whole corn kernels, chopped lime leaves, rice flour, baking soda and salt to the pureed corn mixture and mix well so everything is well combined. The mixture should be soft but not too liquid - if it seems very wet, add a little more rice flour.
- Warm some oil over a medium-high heat in a medium - small, relatively deep skillet/frying pan so that you have around ¾in (2cm) deep oil. Alternatively, you can use a deep fat fryer and deep fry rather than shallow fry the fritters. Test the oil by adding a kernel of corn from the mixture - it should sizzle when hot enough.
- Take spoonfuls of the mixture (a heaped small spoon, around 1 - ½ tablespoon if measured) and spoon about 4 - 5 spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil at a time so they are not too crowded, and the oil stays hot plus you have time to turn them.
- Let the fritters cook for around 3 - 5 minutes until browning and becoming crisp on the underside then turn and cook a couple more minutes on the other side.
- Remove once crisp and gently brown on both sides with a straining spoon to drain off excess oil then place on kitchen paper to drain further. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, cooking in batches. Add more oil as needed - you want to keep it deep enough so that the bottom doesn't stick to the pan and they sit in the oil deep enough to come deep enough to crisp the sides as they cook.
- Serve warm, with sweet chili sauce to serve.
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