Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dinner in Malaysia: Hippopotamus Fritters! (Cucur Badak)

Sometimes people just need to get away for a little while. Whether that means making a face mask and painting your toes, going on a day trip up North, or spending the day at the Chinese Cultural Center, we've all got our preferences for mini-escapes. This recipe was born out of the lattermost of the day-escapes. After an adventure through the aisles of our local Asian supermarket, dinner materialized out of fresh Japanese sweet potatoes, dried prawns, fresh ginger and garlic, all from the day's shopping.

The likelihood of me ever making fritters is slim to none: I hate frying (I generally make it a rule to avoid large quantities of hot, splashing oil), speaking of large quantities of oil- that's pretty unhealthy, and the standard all purpose flour based fritter is also not the most nutritional of epicurean delights. However, after doing some research, I discovered Cucur Badak, which, in English, means "Hippopotamus Fritters." These fritters require quick frying at very hot temperatures, which prevents most oil absorption in the food (Hot oil.. still an issue. Oil in food reduction, check.) They're also sweet potato-based (Flour reduction, check), and, they're filled with a variety of healthy plants and low-calorie protein (Nutrition, check). 

Bottom line- if we're frying, at least we're frying this...
Sweet potato: loaded with carotenoids, potassium, vitamin C and fiber.
Ginger: effective as a digestive aid and a reliever of indigestion and stomach cramping.
Garlic & Shallots: full of vitamin B6, C, A, and manganese.
Tumeric: known as the anti-aging spice, packed with fiber, B6, iron, potassium & manganese.
Lemongrass: an excellent source of iron, potassium and manganese.
Shrimp: for every 3 oz. of shrimp, there's 18g of protein and 1 g of fat, plus B12 and selenium... all at 5 calories per shrimp! 

These fritters are insanely delicious. In fact, I just ate the last four for breakfast. They're fun and easy to make, and even more fun and easy to consume. You can serve them with anything you'd like, or enjoy them plain, but as a result of our South African and Jewish blood, my sister and I opted to have them with chutney (Hooray for Braais!) and sour cream (Hooray for Channukah!) The dipping sauce addition was fantastic even if it made the dish less authentic.. but hey, kepada setiap mereka sendiri! (To each their own.) Enjoy!

Hippopotamus Fritters (Cucur Badak):
Sweet potato dough:
- 2 C (about 3) Japanese sweet potatoes
- 1/2 C all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt

- 3 tbsp dried shrimp, rehydrated (Vegan? Substitute caramelized onions.)
- 2 shallots, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1-inch slice ginger, chopped
- 1 tsp tumeric powder
- 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
- 10 raw shrimp, coarsely chopped (Substitute vegan shrimp or crispy tofu.)
- 1/3 C coconut flakes
- ½ tsp salt
- oil, for frying

Cook sweet potatoes using method of choice (steaming, sauteeing, etc.) then peel, mash, and set aside to cool. Blend dried shrimp (or caramelized onions), shallots, garlic, ginger, tumeric and lemongrass into a paste, or grind using a mortar and pestle to achieve a paste-like texture. Sautee mixture until browned around the edges and fragrant. Mix in shrimp (or tofu), then remove from heat once shrimp turn pink and add coconut and salt. Set aside to cool. Combine cooled sweet potatoes with flour and salt to form a firm dough. Shape dough into ping pong balls, making a bowl shape in the middle with your thumb. Fill each ball with (at least) one heaped teaspoon of filling and seal, then press into a slightly flattened ball. Heat about an inch of oil to 375+ degrees in a large saucepan and fry until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels and serve. Serves four at 305 calories each.


  1. i love your recipes and ideas Keep up the lovely blog Love and light Rona

  2. Thank you so much, wishing you the best!

  3. This recipe sounds so delicous, Rachel! I dislike cooking, but you may make a pseudo-chef out of me - in spite of my best efforts to stay out of the kitchen!

  4. Thanks, Trish. I'd be honored to cook for you any time!