On its face it is a culinary oxymoron, an impossible dream: deep-fried soup. The concept is tantalizing on a number of levels. For starters, you have the impossibility of combining two different states of matter, but it becomes less impossible when you think about the existence of substances such as liquid gas. On the cultural level, it’s even more intriguing: Ferran Adria meets Paula Deen, molecular gastronomy blends with state fair cuisine.
All these musings were solidified recently (no pun intended) with the announcement that KFC outlets in Japan would begin serving deep-fried soup for a limited trial period. The soup in question is corn potage, which apparently has a cult following of its own in the land of the rising sun. It’s more of a chowder in texture, which lends itself more easily to the process of frying---deep-fried consommé would really be an impossibility, after all. From all accounts, the deep-fried corn potage reaches customers in a state that resembles a creamy fritter.
How popular is corn potage in Japan? Consider this: Last year’s food sensation was a corn potage ice cream popsicle. This treat was produced by Gari Gari Kun, the leading brand of ice cream and the favorite of school children throughout the country. Japanese kids are apparently more open to culinary adventure than their American counterparts (if you disagree, try getting one of your children to eat dried seaweed).
Given the current mania for food innovation, it’s not surprising that deep-fried soup is penetrating the American market. There are reports that the Skipper Restaurant and Chowder House on Cape Cod is experimenting with frying up their award-winning clam chowder. “We’ve seen all those crazy shows where people have been to state fairs and tried all sorts of crazy fried items,” said owner Alan Delancy, “so I started to think: What if we had something really great and we try to improve on it?” With that sort of pioneering spirit, lobster ice cream has to be right around the corner.
Mark Spivak is the author is Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com