Every summer, my husband and I drive out to the local fish fry joint for dinner. The Surfside Club is located right on the Missouri River north of Omaha, and the fried catfish is solid. Every plate comes with a large pile of French fries, a generous cup of coleslaw, and piping hot hushpuppies, fresh out of the fryer—it’s enough to feed a family. After stuffing myself with fried fish and French fries, I dip a hushpuppy into honey for that first hopeful bite. And every time, I’m disappointed.
The hushpuppies at Surfside are bland. The restaurant is built high on the Nebraska side of the bank, and it’s become common practice for kids to throw these balls of fried dough down into the water below, just to watch carp break the surface to inhale them. And as much as I want to do the same, I refrain. I do the adult thing and keep trying to like them. I like the idea of them. The name “hushpuppy” promises so much.
So, while developing this recipe, I came up with something that fell somewhere between a hushpuppy and a fish cake. It has tons more flavor and is like a complete meal in each bite. I use bluegill but any white fish will work in this recipe. I bet smoked salty fish would be awesome, too. I call them fritters because I don’t use any cornmeal, which is the base of most hushpuppy recipes.
For the sauce, Kewpie is a Japanese-style mayonnaise that is the mayo to rule them all. Whereas American mayonnaise is made with whole eggs, Kewpie is made with only yolks, which gives the condiment a super eggy, custard-like consistency and flavor. If you can’t find Kewpie, regular mayo is fine.
- 1½ lbs. bluegill fillets, skinless and boneless
- Sea salt, to taste
- Frying oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. onion salt
- ¼ tsp. garlic salt
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup sweet corn
- ⅓ cup whole milk, plus extra
- ½ cup Kewpie mayo
- Hot sauce, to taste
- 5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. Cajun/Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s
- 1 tbsp. honey
Also works with
- Season fish with salt and cook through in a hot, non-stick pan with oil. Then pulse fish in a food processor to break up to desired texture, and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, paprika, sugar, onion salt, garlic salt, cayenne, and seasoned salt. Then add chopped cooked fish, green onion, egg, and corn. Next, mix in milk until a sticky, thick batter forms. Add more or less milk as needed. Do not overmix. To test for seasoning, cook a tiny bit in a pan with oil. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients. Set aside and keep cold.
- Heat frying oil to 350°F. Use a greased spoon to drop equal-size balls of fish batter into the hot oil, and fry until golden on all sides, flipping as needed. Stick a toothpick into a fritter to test for doneness: If it comes out clean, the inside is cooked through. Do not crowd the pan or fryer. Do not allow the oil to get too hot, because the outside will burn before the inside cooks through.
- Drain and serve fritters while warm with dipping sauce. You should end up with about 16 fritters.