Try This: Maryland ChickAn’s Deep-Fried Watermelon is a Surprisingly Tasty TreatOctober 31, 2017
- Patricia BaesWords
If you haven’t been to the Legazpi Sunday Market in a while, here’s a reason to go back: deep-fried goods that include chicken, Oreos, Twinkies, and even watermelon. You’ll find these treats and more from relative newcomer Maryland ChickAn—a stall that brings the carnival and state fair favorites of the United States to our shores, but with twists that make it distinctly their own.
The venture started from what co-owner Fred Corder, who was born in Washington, DC and soon moved to Prince George’s County Maryland, calls a “cultural experiment”, when partner Agnes Paras tried cooking his grandmom (as Corder refers to her)’s recipes which would prove to be a hit with their friends. “She noticed that her local friends really liked it so we decided to start selling it,” he shares. “It has grown from there.” While the two run a comic book company, Pockets Fulla Pillz (Corder owns the US arm, Paras the Philippine arm), Maryland ChickAn would be their first foray into the food world—though one that Corder shares has allowed him to help share the culture he grew up with.
Maryland ChickAn likes to be a cultural experience. We talk to our customers because it’s our carefree Maryland culture. The food is carefree. Maryland is an informal & engaging place. In Maryland, your servers joke with you [and] ask how your day is going. We like to bring that energy to every sale.”
The short-but-succinct selection focuses on American carnival classics you’ll find at the many festivals held at the eponymous state, served fresh and hot out of the deep-fryer. While the current lineup pays homage to Corder’s grandmom’s cooking (she was not a professional cook, Corder shares, but had always cooked for the family), Maryland ChickAn unites the American and Filipino sense of comfort by giving the dishes spins that Filipinos will find easy to relate to. Here are just some of the must-tries:
Fried chicken is a dish well-loved by both Americans and Filipinos, though expressed in different ways. Maryland ChickAn does theirs “popcorn”-style, with white meat diced into smaller pieces, each breaded and fried for a soft crunch from the batter that makes way to succulent meat. They’re then blanketed with a glaze—take your pick from the sweet-and-savory Tantallon Teriyaki (named after a community of the same name in Maryland said to be home to many Filipinos), smoky DC BBQ, cheesy Greenbelt Garlic Parmesan, or our favorite hot-and-buttery number, Bowie Buffalo—all of which pack some serious flavor to keep you digging into the bowl. And though more often paired with biscuits in the United States, Maryland ChickAn instead serves them with the Filipino ulam favorite: a steamy bed of fluffy white rice that helps catch any extra glaze and all the chicken’s juices.
Known for its summery, refreshing character, watermelon might not be an ingredient you’d intuitively think to make for good deep-frying (lest it be for novelty’s sake)—but we assure you there’s more to this treat than meets the eye. Traditionally you’d find it served by the wedge at many a State County Fair, but Corder shares they instead patterned their version after Filipino street food favorite kwek-kwek: served as bite-sized balls, roughly two inches in diameter. As you sink your teeth into a piece you are first met by the outer crust, which carries a welcome cragginess and a light but discernible crunch we’d liken to that of a proper corndog or other cornmeal-crusted treats. Keep digging and you’ll find an interior akin to a soft, freshly-fried cake doughnut that melts in the mouth; and, peeking out from the center, you’ll find a square of watermelon glistening with its candy-red hue. The textures combine in a most synergistic manner, with the crust giving just enough of a crunch to contrast with the plush, fluffy cake, only to be met with the juicy crispness of the fruit (do be sure to consume this while hot); and though barely sugary by itself, you get just the right amount of sweetness via the dollop of icing topping each piece that softens into a light, crystallized glaze and helps amplify the watermelon. The way Maryland ChickAn executes the dish makes for a surprisingly balanced deep-fried treat that does not feel cloying or gimmicky, in stark contrast to the many deep-fried contraptions you’ll find elsewhere. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself gobbling up all six pieces by yourself.
A stall at the Legazpi Sunday Market offering American carnival classics and comfort food given Filipino twists.