UPDATE :  I'm pleased to announce that we've now received  14  very interesting entries! Thank you very much. Keep them coming guys and remember to send them in by June 7 2010  - we're looking forward to shouting out the winner and showcasing a fantastic line up of entries on June 8 2010  !! What's your motivation? Not one, but TWO fabulous prizes - a gorgeous cookbook (take a detailed peek here) and a guest blogger spot on the fabulous blog Lazaro Cooks! And now on to the day's post :

where have you been all my life??!

I'm the sort of person who's really ravenous only in the morning and late afternoon. Lunch doesn't interest me much, as it's usually really too hot for anything that isn't a liquid. When dinner time rolls around, I'm still digesting my afternoon tea.

Last week, I stumbled on an amazing book, Cradle of Flavour  at my local library and have been trying out recipes from it. The fritters pictured above are the result of yesterday's recipe browsing. I used to have these very often, in the late afternoon, back when I had a live-in Indonesian maid. She never could ( never would ?) give me the recipe and while she was around, I never felt much of a pull towards the kitchen anyway, so, I was happy to let things be, as long as I got my regular Bakwan fix with my afternoon coffee or tea.

I can't remember the last time I made these though, since my maid Wati, left. The few times I did attempt it, the flavour was fine and tasted as good as Wati's had been. The texture though, was totally off! Where hers had been crusty and almost glass brittle outside while remaining moist and chewy within, mine had come out all fluffy and pillow like, more like a doughnut or beignet. It lacked that wonderful contrast between the crust and the interior crumb that I craved so madly. Eventually I gave up trying to replicate them as even my Indonesian  in-laws who did not enjoy them, couldn't help me with the recipe.

As I was flipping through the pages of James Oseland's gorgeous cookbook, what did I come upon but a recipe for.....bakwan! Oh happy day! Only another foodie would understand. With high hopes I scanned the recipe and noticed two glaring differences between his recipe and mine. Baking powder and egg!! His recipe didn't have a grain of it and was eggless and mine was all afluff with both! Only way to find out if this was the crux of the matter, so make them I did. Ah...sweet success!!  The fritters were everything I had hoped for - crusty and blistered outside, chewy inside with the sweet crunch of vegetables and the gorgeous grassy freshness of chinese celery. It was so tasty, I didn't need the recommended chilli dip. The scary looking chillies were thrown in so you don't forget where you are....

This wonderful book took me completely by surprise. Want to know why? I've reviewed Cradle of Flavor at Blogcritics, over here  http://blogcritics.org/tastes/article/book-review-cradle-of-flavor-by/  
I hope you will take a look and let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Now, isn't it just the cherry on top that after years of searching, I find the fritter of my dreams and wouldn't you know it, it turns out to be bloody vegan! What do you suppose the universe is trying to tell me? ;)

James Oseland's recipe, abridged but with the recipe unchanged. Bold type are my own notes or recommendations.

Makes about 25 fritters

2 cups/10 oz/285 g all purpose flour
2 tsps kosher salt (I used fine sea salt)
1 1/2 cups/12 fluid oz/375 ml plus 2 Tbsp water
1 cup/2 1/2 oz/70 g mung bean sprouts
3 Chinese chives or scallions (green and white parts) thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 Tbsp finely chopped Chinese celery greens
3 green cabbage leaves, very finely shredded into 1 in/2.5 cm strips
1 small waxy potato (Yukon Gold) peeled and cut into very fine matchsticks
1 clove garlic grated ( I chopped)
2 shallots grated (I chopped)
Peanut oil for frying (I used soy bean oil)
12 fresh green Thai chillies (optional)


Sift together flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add water and stir well, making sure to get out all lumps. Batter should be smooth and the consistency of slightly thick pancake batter able to coat the back of a spoon. If too thick, add more water, 1 tsp at a time; if too thin, add more flour, 1 tsp at at time.

Add beansprouts, Chinese chives, celery greens, cabbage, potato, garlic and shallots to the batter and stir gently to combine.

Pour oil to a depth of 1 in/2.5 cm into a 12 in/30 cm skillet and place over med to med-high heat until hot but not smoking. A drop of batter added to the oil should sizzle immediately if the temperature is right. If it sinks to the bottom without sizzling, heat the oil further.

For each fritter, ladle about 1 1/2 tablespoons batter into the oil with a large metalspoon, using a smaller metal spoon to scrape off any batter clinging to the larger spoon. Try to keep the fritters flattish so they could right through to the centre more easily. Avoid overcrowding the pan as this will inhibit even cooking, lower the temperature of the oil and result in greasy fritters. Cook the fritters, turning them occasionally, until uniformly golden and crisp. This should take about 5 minutes total cooking for each fritter.

When done, transfer fritters onto crushed paper towels to drain off excess oil. Transfer fritters to a platter and serve with your favourite chilli dipping sauce (I recommend Sriracha since it's good and most people seem to have it in their kitchens these days). Whole chillies are for nibbling on between bites of bakwan, if you so wish.  Serve and eat promptly as fritters lose their pleasing crunch very quickly.