Friday, March 21, 2008

Touching Clown Girl and Mashed Banana Fritters

It all started with the film Fight Club, which is based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk. My good friends and I saw the film two or three times at the cinema and on video. I read the book and enjoyed it, too. Then the other books by Mr Palahniuk, an Oregonian former car mechanic, beckoned and I read and savoured all of them over a couple of years.

The author attended a writers' group when he was still a struggling writer. One of the writers was Monica Drake, someone he kindly wrote a very generous introduction for in her recent first novel, Clown Girl, after he became famous.

Ms Drake's book is published by Hawthorne Books, which produces large-format paperbacks with a difference -- they have fold-in covers that work as built-in bookmarks as well. (I would recommend looking for Clown Girl and other Hawthorne-published books online at The Book Depository as the company delivers without charging for postage and handling. You can find other titles published by Hawthorne at

Clown Girl made me laugh and cry. It is about a young woman called Nita who has artistic clown ambitions. She rents a room with her boyfriend Rex, nude-model-cum-fellow-artist-clown, in her ex-boyfriend's house in a dodgy part of Baloneytown. Rex is away in a big city purportedly auditioning for clown college.

Nita hardly eats and suffers from some ailment. A nice police officer saves her during one of her fainting spells. While she has to collect enough of her urine output over 24 hours for a medical test, she needs to earn a living as a corporate clown. In the meantime, a bossy clown colleague tries to engage her in questionable one-on-one clown dates with men who have a fetish for clowns (coulrophiles, they're called). As if Nita doesn't have enough on her plate, her landlord's current girlfriend, who is a scary body builder, has it in for her.

The hilarious, yet in some ways sad, story involves a hot lawnmower, a urine collection funnel, a rubber chicken, a lost dog, clown sex, balloon sculptures and a cop who smells like baked cinnamon goodies. Are you intrigued yet?

Somehow cooking with bananas seems to go well with today's topic. Slipping on banana skin and fashioning banana-shaped balloons into religious icons and scenes are part of Nita's colourful life.

So here you go, a funny well-loved Malaysian snack:

Mashed Banana Fritters (Kuih Kodok in Malay)

2 big, ripe bananas (about 180g), mashed
3-4 tbs flour
1 tbs rice flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 1/2 tbs oil (for frying)

1. Mix the flours, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar in a bowl. Stir it into the mashed banana with a fork. (Add the fourth tbs of flour if mixture is too soft.)
2. Heat a frying pan to medium-hot and add enough oil to coat the flat area. (Traditionally, this snack is deep-fried but I find it not all that necessary.) Spoon small mounds of the banana mixture onto the pan when the oil is heated (a soft sizzling sound when the batter touches it).
3. Fry one side till medium brown and flip over to fry the other side. Place cooked fritters on a few layers of kitchen paper. Best served warm.

Spring is in the air! Here are pictures of cut tulips I bought from the market and pink and yellow blossoms on trees in Zug.


Johanna said...

thanks for visiting my blog - find this post quite intriguing - will now be looking out for the book and craving your fritters!

Kenny Mah said...

That's a great book cover --- love it! And for some reason, my mind is jumbling up the Malay word for clown ('badut') and toad ('kodok'), perhaps due to the delicious deep-fried snack you have going there, and don't we all feel a little clownish and toad-like during some of them slow, dreary days?

Ah, I need some munchies, methinks...

wonda said...

Sorry, it's hard to tell what kind of trees they are but from the look of the color, I think the reddish pink ones look like peach blossoms. I don't know about the yellow one, though. Will try to find out.
I always make the cucuk kodok with only flour, sugar and mashed bananas, and they often turn out flat. Must try your recipe next time.

Argus Lou said...

Johanna, thanks for dropping by. I love the name of your blog, Green Gourmet Giraffe. ^_^
Very evocative.

Kenny, I like the cover, too. Simple yet effective, ja?
I feel clownish and toadish at least a few days of the week - nothing whacking a fly or two won't help. ;-)

Wonda, thanks for your observations and expertise. Will go there again later in spring or summer to see if there are any peaches (or other fruit) on those trees. My other half thinks the yellow one is a kind of big flowering shrub or bush (yes, we're kinda precise like that). ^_^

SteamyKitchen said...

I have a bunch of perfect bananas here on the counter and it will take every ounce of willpower to let them super-ripen so I can make these fritters!!!!

Argus Lou said...

Yes, Malaysians know how to make perfectly health-and-energy-giving bananas into fattening, delicious comfort food, Mrs Steamy. ;-)

wonda said...

Some trees may be the barren type. I saw your cucuk kodok post and my friend told me she made banana muffins two days ago. So yesterday I bought bananas to make cucuk kodok but they are still sitting there and soon will be making black faces at me! Already ate up a few.

Argus Lou said...

Wonda, my other half thinks the pink one is a cherry tree. He feels the weather here is too cold for peach trees.

If the mashed banana dough feels too soft, just add a bit more flour.

wonda said...

Reporting to Argus,
The cucur kodok turned out well! Thanks. Where did you get that recipe?

Lee Ping said...

Heard from sister Wonda that you had posted Kuih Kodok. You know, living in Malaysia for almost 18 years, I have never had that before. Now, I know what that is. Is the taste similar to Goreng Pisang?

Argus Lou said...

Great, Wonda! Did you add sugar or were the overripe bananas sweet enough? If I remember correctly, the recipe is adapted from Amy Beh's at Kuali.

Mrs HBT, perhaps Kuih Kodok is a northern specialty as I grew up in Taiping, Perak, buying it at my school canteen and town stalls. My sister also made it once in a while.
It tastes similar to Goreng Pisang but you can imagine the texture is modified by the flours.

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

What will they be writing about next? Accountants? Oh wait, that's been done already.

Must be wonderful to smell spring in the air. I'm still smelling peanuts.

fatboybakes said...

oooh, so happens i have a whole bunch of overriped bananas which i bought for an order of banana cake which has since been reduced by half. must try. is the rice flour crucial, since its only 1 tbspn?

gives it that crunch issit?

oh, came over from lemongrass' blog. yummy recipes you have here. whats that about the bain marie?

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Zitrongras. You made me chuckle reading about your smelling peanuts in the air. Now which novel has an accountant as the protagonist? Some John Grisham story?
Hope you write one too one day... ;-)

FBB, welcome! And thanks.
I've made Kuih Kodok before without the rice flour ('coz rice flour in Switzerland costs RM7 for 500g or so). It was fine. I guess the crunchiness (from rice flour) will kick in only if you deepfry the kodok.
I've been cooking and baking non-stop almost every day for the past 20 months - so if I didn't share some of the good stuff, I think I might've burst. ^_^

Argus Lou said...

Oh, FBB, re: the bain marie my other half fashioned from the tray in the oven. Since his quark pudding required bain marie treatment and we didn't have one, he poured boiling water into the oven tray and placed the muffin pan containing the quarky batter into the water and closed the oven door.

It worked fine, except that after all the hulabaloo, he forgot to empty the tray and the next day, I blindly splashed that browned water when I un-gently pulled out the tray. Ha ha.

fatboybakes said...

ooh, you're in switzerland ah? so glamour. i presume you're msian, since i see pics of my birthplace, ie, taiping on your blog.....

ah, why was the bain marie water browned? mine browns sometimes coz the tin oxidises..... yucky.

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Aiyah Argus ar, I'm sure there are loads of books on accountants after Enron ler. The new baddie no less. :-P

I think I should try making kuih won't be as disastrous as my brownie experience, I'm sure.

Argus Lou said...

FBB, wah! "Taiping lang, Taiping lang!" *jumps excitedly* But I'm not Hokkien. Cantonese.

Never thought of Switzerland as being glamorous. *laughs dementedly*
Watched the Swiss football team play Germany in a friendly last night - like watching hobbits get trounced by elves 0-4. Tsk, tsk!

Don't know what was sticking on the oven tray before Other Half turned it into a bain marie (who's that Marie who took such a hot bath? Did she survive it?!). Better not ask is my policy in order not to hear gross answers.

Lyrical, I'll try to think of you as a potential baddie. ;-)
No need to mess up your nice hair. Just run out to buy some Kuih Kodok from a nice makcik. (Only desperate Malaysians abroad need to break their backs making local goodies.)

One of my blog posts last year was of Jamie Oliver's Bloomin' Brilliant Brownies. Much easier and pretty moist. Lydia Teh tried it with her kids and they loved it.

fatboybakes said...

i've linked your delightful swissy blog... hope ya dontch mind.

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, FBB. I'm honoured.
Would like to link yours too -- once I have time to trawl through the intricacies of modern-day scribbling.

Kenny Mah said...

Forget accountants, Grisham and the smell of burnt peanuts --- what you and LL should do is write a book together! Like Stephen King and Peter Straub. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Most definitely it would be cool.

(Of course, the main motive behind me suggesting this is so I can have another book cover to design, hehe.)

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Kenny's gone mad. I can't even go near your league. You should ask him to design your book cover, though. He did a great job with Wena Poon's book, Lions in Winter.

wonda said...

The cucuk kodok picture I put up has five petals like the sakura!

Argus Lou said...

Kenny, you mean like a "she said this, the other woman said that" book? Like advice for couples or insights into man-woman relationships?

Zitrongras, what do you mean by league? I've no league. Only a leg, or two. Very 'pai seh' with my slower-than-my-late-grandma output of short stories. (Yes, Ms Poon got a nice cover.)

Wonda, wah! I must rush over to see it.

Kak Teh said...

argus, cucur kodok is just what one needs on cold gloomy days, with teh tarik of course. I think for you not to deep fry the mixture, but to make them into pancakes, the mixture has to be a bit thicker. And this is what we call lempeng pisang. And to add to the taste, put some dessicated coconut - it'll give you that nice crunchy taste with the sweet mashed bananas.
Recently I discovered that frying bananas or sweet potatoes with tempura flour is just as nice for banana fritters instead of the usual rice flour.

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Kak Teh. Thanks for the tips. ^_^
The cucur kodok panfried was pretty OK, only not as round as those deepfried. Shaped like chicken nuggets! (It's wonderful sunny, warmish weather here these few days, after snowing for two days earlier in the week.)

wonda said...

Argus, Argus,
I couldn't help chuckling when I saw that bookcover with the rubber chicken. Looks like it's ballet dancing! Hehe!

Kenny Mah said...

Kenny, you mean like a "she said this, the other woman said that" book?

Eh, who is the Other Woman lah? Hahaha... Actually that would be a great title for your and LL's book: The Other Woman.

She says, she says. Why not? I can imagine the cover di...

Tunku Halim said...

Hey, I love the way you've mixed food and books – 2 of my life's great pleasures. I won't mention the 3rd! :)

shashi kala said...

Hi Argus

I'm a fan of Chuck's books too (and so, lately, is Bissme). Clown Girl sounds intriguing. But what is the writing style like?

Argus Lou said...

Kenny, those are great ideas. Is LL reading this? (Just came back from a 6-day trip to Italy - that's why this late response.)

TH, aiyor -- can guess what your third passion is. Ha ha. Good for you!

Shashi, the writing is sometimes tongue-in-cheek or humorous and sometimes earnest. A bit of the setups is slightly predictable but forgivable.

Wonda, rubber chicken dancing ballet? Sounds like the stuff of funny nightmares!

Kenny Mah said...

Maybe she hasn't seen it yet... she's been so busy of late with work. Poor LL! :(

Argus Lou said...

Kenny, LL or I could be the Other Woman spewing stuff in the book. Sounds like fun. ;-)

WokandSpoon said...

The kuih kodok look yummy!!!! I'm drooling just looking at your photos!

Argus Lou said...

Hi, WokandSpoon! It's nice to hear from you on one of your rare (these days) forays into the blogosphere. Thanks. said...


You have a wonderful blog. Thank you. BTW, just wanted to let you know that the yellow flowers are from the forsythia shrub.


Argus Lou said...

Hi, Tina. Thanks for your kind words and for letting me know that it's forsythia. Hope you will drop by every so often.

bala murugan said...

All I want is the Banana buttercream, looks soooo good!

Bain Maries

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)