The word “hushpuppy” means two things to me: comfortable shoes and the deep-fried cornballs I got as a kid at Long John Silver’s.While the former remains a staple in the shoe world, the hushpuppy has come a long way since the food court at the mall.
I first discovered how good a hushpuppy could be after visiting Dirt Candy, Amanda Cohen’s 6-month-old vegetarian restaurant in the East Village. At first, when the dish came out, the lighting in the restaurant made it look like hard little balls of orange fried mess. Warily I cut into one and put a dollop of whipped maple butter on the steaming yellow innards. After the first bite these jalapeño-infused babies were quickly consumed and were on my mind all week long.
Apparently, I am not alone in this obsession—Cohen says they’re one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Running $6 per order, it feels natural to add them when you choose your wine.
“I wanted a small snack at the begin ning so we could get it out fast while we made the rest of the meal,” the 35-yearold chef tells me. “When I decided to make them, I definitely wanted something fried and something little—a big hushpuppy seems excessive where somehow four little ones doesn’t.”
The result proved well worth it. Out they come on a white porcelain plate, four to an order. A ramekin of whipped maple butter rested on the side as a condiment to help cool and sweeten the spiciness of the hushpuppies.
“In general people are like, ‘Oh my God, these are so great. Can I get an extra serving of the maple butter?’” says Cohen. “I have seen people lick the maple butter off their fingers.”
“I would say it’s rare the table that doesn’t order them.Your eyes get drawn to it on the menu and you’re like, ‘Snack! Of course I need a snack before my meal.’”That, and they’re so damn good.
> Dirt Candy
430 E. 9th St. (betw. 1st Ave. & Ave. A), 212-228-7732