Remember GFB’s coconut batter-fried sweet potatoes from last year? This version is just as good, if not better. The batter is simpler and lighter. The sweet potatoes are shredded more finely into long, thin strands, resulting in much, much crispier, bird’s nest-like fritters that bear more resemblance to shoestring potatoes than potato fries. The only thing that remains the same is the dipping sauce, a perfect mixture of Thai sweet chilli sauce, chopped roasted peanuts, and chopped fresh cilantro. Some things just can’t be improved upon, I guess.
To make enough of these fritters as an appetizer for six people (or four hungry people), you need 1.5 pounds of sweet potatoes. Peel them and shred them as finely as you can into long, thin strands. If you have a food processor that can do that, that’s great. If not, go for the Kiwi Pro-Slice Thai Peeler. These uni-tasking hand-shredders don’t take up much space, and do the job very well. I have one just for shredding green papaya to make Thai papaya salad (Som Tam ส้มตำ).
For extra crispy fritters — the kind that, as you bite into them, creates the crackling noises in your skull like those you get from bad radio station reception — you may want to add this extra step. Spread out the sweet potato strands in a single layer on a large cookie sheet and let them dehydrate in a very low oven — 100°F — for 2-3 hours. Some discoloration will occur, but it’s not so bad and the crispiness you get out of it more than makes up for the slightly marred appearance.
You see, moisture inside whatever it is you’re frying is precisely what makes it soggy. Moisture turns into steam when heated and the only way to ensure crispiness and long retention of that crispiness is to eliminate as much moisture as possible from the object.
The next step is to whisk together 6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) of rice flour and one teaspoon of salt with 8 fluid ounces (one cup) of either plain carbonated water or plain water with one teaspoon of baking soda added. Add the sweet potato strands to the batter and stir just to make sure each and every strand is well coated.
What I hate the most about frying anything is the fact that I have to dispose of the oil afterward. Therefore, I limit the amount of the oil by using a small frying pan and fry in more batches. For this large batch, I used only 1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil and shallow-fried the fritters in an 8-inch fry pan.
One really great thing about these fritters is that they absorb surprisingly very little oil (the leftover oil measured a couple of tablespoons shy of a cup after I’d fried up the entire batch). Since the batter is very light and the sweet potato strands are very thin, they crisp up almost immediately the moment they hit the oil. Once one side browns up, you flip it over and in less than a minute it’s ready. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined pan immediately.
The trick is to spread out the potato “nests” when you lower the strands into the pan. The more spread-out the nests, the less moisture retention. The less moisture, the more quickly they crisp up and the longer they stay crisp. Also, don’t crowd the pan. You want the oil temperature to stay as even as possible. Crowding the pan will cause the temperature to dip too low and cause the fritters to absorb too much oil.
For the dipping sauce, mix together 1.5 cups of Thai sweet chilli sauce, 1/2 cup of chopped roasted peanuts, and 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro leaves.