Sunday, November 30, 2008

Recipe: Nokake (Native American Blue Corn Cakes)

I love nokake (no-kah-kay). Perhaps it is because they are so base, simple and sustaining. It could be that they kind of remind me of the elven bread called "lembas" that sustained Frodo and Sam on their way to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, (Geek check!). I do know that they are delicious.

The recipes for corn cakes predate the arrival of the Europeans on the American continent. There are many different recipes that include all manner of ingredients including dill, bacon bits, bear grease and even wood ashes (for real good chemical and nutritional reasons). They were an important food stuff for the Native Americans and influenced the cooking of the colonists and American food today. Cornbread, corn pone, corn sticks, hoe cakes, johnny cakes and a host of other corn meal breads find their origin in nokake.

This recipe is based on one published by Wampanoag Indian chef Sherry Pocknett. Sherry runs a catering business and also operates a the "Sly Fox's Den", a Native American foods concession stand she operates at many pow wows including the Pequot Nation's annual "Schemitzun". I've made some changes to her recipe to suit my personal taste, but the heart of it is hers.

I use nokake as a platform for several "stack" types of recipes. One consists of the nokake, topped with roasted acorn squash and then a layer of smoked pork tenderloin. The resulting dish is DELICIOUS and one of my favorites. It, and others like it will find their way here as photo opportunities present themselves.

Nokake are versatile, you can alter their preparation between sweet or savory depending on your needs. This recipe leans towards savory.

Nokake (Corn cakes)

2 cups blue cornmeal (I prefer blue, you can use white or yellow)
1/2 cup flour
2 TBS honey
1 heaping TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups water
1 bunch scallions/green onions (green part only), chopped
1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels
Pepper, to taste
3 TBS peanut oil

In a large bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, honey, baking powder, and salt.

Slowly add the water until the resulting mixture is the consistency of hot oatmeal.

Stir in the scallions, sweet corn, and pepper.

On a large griddle or skillet, heat some of the oil on medium-high heat. Ladle enough batter into the skillet to make a 5-inch cake.

Cook for 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Brush the surface with butter.

Continue making corn cakes, adding more oil as needed.

Recipe: Nokake (Native American Corn Cakes) from Chop Onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk


  1. I like the added history you give...I am right there, and some of my favorite cookbooks have it too.

    I have not had blue corn flap jacks in a while...send me a stack please :)

  2. Thank you for the kind comments. I like learning about the history and origins of many of the dishes I research and prepare. It just makes it all better in some way.

    Technically, these aren't flap jacks. More like a flat bread or flat quick bread. I do have a recipe for blue corn flap jacks though. Stay tuned!