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What is a good hushpuppy?

If all the hours I spent in the South were added up, it would probably amount to about three months over my lifetime. I'm not that familiar with Southern food ... what I usually eat is local versions of Southern food.

So I never understood hushpuppies.

On a recent SF board discussion of a new Louisiana restaurant someone said that the hushpuppies needed dipping sauce.

Another poster did the scoffing for me ... dipping sauce?

Turns out people do like to dip them in catsup or catsup/mayo or catsup/mayo/hot sauce.

In another topic about someone looking for hushpuppies in SF, a poster wrote ...

"Most of the ones I've found have been basically some fried cornmeal, no onion, no flavor. Or, there is a trend to doing them with something else. C&K Steakhouse had some really good shrimp hushpuppies. It was really a shrimp coated in "hushpuppie" batter and fried."

Other posts mentioned savory seasonings ... spicy and herb-flecked hushpuppies.

Is it possible that hashpuppies are more than just fried cornmeal?

How do you enjoy your hushpuppies. What should I be looking for to judge good versions?

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  1. I'm from NC and live for my week at Ocean Isle beach each year where every day includes at least one meal with Calabash style seafood and hushpuppies. In my opinion, hushpuppies MUST be served hot, in a plastic basket lined with a paper, and should be sweet. Some include a bit of onions, but my persoinal choice are the sweeter versions.

    they always come with butter for dipping or spreading. And, that's what makes them pure heaven.

    My dad prefers cocktail sauce on his and we always tell him he's strange.

    Man, I can't wait until August for my annual beach trip.

    1. I am from the South and never have seen dipping sacues for hushpuppies. Butter is all I have ever used or seen. And most people I know eat them plain. Interesting.

      To me a great hushpuppy is two bites, any bigger and you don't get that fried crust; it has some onion in it; it is made with white cornmeal; it is not sweet but just a plain cornbread; and it has been fried in the same oil the fish was fried in. Now I hate fish, but that flavor is needed.

      Most Southern cooks do not put sugar in cornbread. And if they do, it is not a large amount. Hushpuppies are deep fried in any thing from bacon grease to Crisco.

      In Oakland, Art's Crab Shack on Broadway has good hushpuppies. The hushpuppies are very small and you get a lot in the order. There are enough for two easily, maybe three people. Just be aware, even though it is a sit down place, you pay as soon as you order. Then they will bring your food. Their seafood and fish is very good. My DH says the catfish is the best he has ever had.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Janet

        I am in the no sugar camp, not ever, sugar renders a good hush puppy inedible. Onion and I like some crushed red pepper. The only thing I would ever dip them in is tartar sauce and that had better not be sweet either.

        Anyone ever have the steamed version? Cornmeal dumplings cooked on top of greens? That is good eating!

        1. re: Candy

          Hi - I'm intrigued by the idea of steamed hush puppies cooked on top of greens. If you have one, could you post a recipe in Home Cooking? I'm going to ask for recipes there. Thanks!

      2. Born and raised in ths south so have eaten my fair share of hushpuppies. The are essential with fried seafood, fish, shrimp, any and all. I don't remember having them be sweet. Usually it's cornmeal, a little flour, some onion, tsp or so of baking powder, an egg and some milk or even buttermilk. Now, there's no reason some cayanne pepper, garlic powder, or things like that couldn't be added. It's a thick dough (batter?) that's then dropped by spoonfulls into the hot grease the seafood is or has been fried in. I also don't ever remember being served a "dipping sauce." They were eaten with the fried seafood and sides, usually slaw, maybe fries or okra.

        Many times I make hushpuppies out of the cornmeal/flour mixture I've used to coat the fish. Plus, since I dip the fish in an egg/milk mixture before rolling it in the cornmeal mix, it really saves throwing away good ingrediants.

        I know, lots of "fried" stuff but that is the south, lots of fried foods.

        1. I've learned that it is a regional thing. I'm from Georgia and grew up with a version that does have onions, and is usualy cooked in the same oil as the fish. Ketchup or cocktail sauce is always the "dip" of choice, however if they are good (i.e. moist & salty), you don't need to dip them in anything. Heck, I'll even dip them in tartar sauce if it is close by.

          Folks in the Carolinas prefer sweet with butter. I don't care for them that way - I also don't like sweet cornbread and will avoid at all cost. So either is correct, just a preference based on what your mama brought you up on!

          1. Down here in Louisiana it is more typical to find sweet hush puppies. Not insipidly so but similar to a cornbread with a teaspoon or two of cane sugar (my preference) added to the batter. From time to time you will seen onions in them but most frequently you see them with rough chopped green onions in them. In fact they pretty much all have green onions in them (down here anyway). I can say definitively however that I have only seen them served with butter. That said, hush puppies generally come with a fried seafood meal and thus there is generally both tartar and cocktail sauce. I like to put tartar sauce on mine but butter is not too shabby either. In the sort of restaurants you typically find hush puppies in here there would also be hot sauce (Crystal, Tabasco, etc), ketchup, Worcestershire and often prepared horseradish for making your own cocktail sauce to eat with raw oysters.

            1. As mentioned in an earlier SF post, they have them at J's Pots of Soul in San Francisco. They come with honey butter. Personally, I prefer savory over sweet but you might like them.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chaddict

                now that you mention it, i have had them with honey butter

              2. All my great hushpuppies required that I be less that 12-3,

                Still like them but those childhood memories can't be beat.

                1. My hushpuppy experience is confined to the catfish emporia of middle Tennessee/southern Kentucky, and after looking through the other posts here it appears that I've pretty much had the best. Not sweet, always a bit of onion at least, often with little depth-charges of cayenne pepper scattered within, and sometimes bits of fresh corn kernels. Some of the best, in most people's estimation, come from the Captain D's fast-seafood chain, and I like those a lot, too. The very best ones I had were from a now-defunct all-you-can-eat catfish chain called Catfish Cabin - ours was in Madison, TN - and they had the cayenne, the onion AND the whole-kernel corn. They also had killer coleslaw and excellent iced tea, all of which they would repeatedly heap up before us in hopes of diverting us from the more expensive catfish.

                  Haven't even tried to find any here in LA - as lousy as the cornbread is here, I'm not sure any hushpuppies I could find would be worth eating.

                  1. ah, fah, hiss, grrr.

                    the best!?!

                    i beg to differ

                    it, of course, is a taste thing and i prefer the Creole, low-coountry style, sweet hushpuppy. thank you very much.

                    that said, i would love to try some good examples of the savory variety

                    Captain D's you say. I have never been too fond of that place, but i think i only ate there once or twice while in school in NC

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: frankiii

                      For many years we were on the committee of an annual fund-raiser in Nashville called Oyster Easter, which always featured vast quantities of freshly-shucked oysters. As the years went by, the quality and quantity of contributed side-dishes evolved to include a very fine crayfish boil, complete with the corn and the sausage and potatoes...but the hushpuppies ALWAYS came from Captain D's. One year they declined to contribute them, and we had to go buy them just to forestall mass mutiny. They apologized...

                    2. northern insanity:
                      dipped in maple syrup

                      1. I grew up in Arkansas, and I agree that hush puppies should be of the two-bite size, not sweet (or barely sweet), not greasy, and never dipped in anything. Many restaurants make them plain, without additional seasonings, but I prefer the addition of a little finely chopped onion or green onion. I would even add a bit of diced jalapeno, but that's totally untraditional.

                        Catfish restaurants in Arkansas generally serve them both before and during the meal, along with little dishes of sweet pickled green tomato, stewed pinto beans, and cole slaw.

                        Sarah C

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kittyfood

                          that is the best sounding combination i have heard of thus far.