If you’ve watched any amount of food television, you’ve probably heard people talking about ‘Mexican Street Corn’. I spent a lot of time in the streets, squares and parks of Mexico but couldn’t find street corn for love nor money. That is, until I visited the Bosque de Chapultepec in Mexico City. It was on a crowded, noisy Sunday in the park (with Jorge) that I tried my first Elote or Grilled Street Corn.
Bosque de Chapultepec means Forest of the Grasshoppers. Whilst grasshoppers were nowhere to be seen on the day we visited, what seemed to be the entire population of Mexico City more than made up for it. This enormous parkland covers over 650 hectares and is rightly known as the lungs of Mexico City. It’s where the Chilangas choose to spend their leisure time. Strolling, boating, playing and above all, eating. Stall after stall of juices, shaved ices, ice creams, soft drinks and corn chips in the colours of the rainbow. It’s safe to say that the artificial colouring and flavouring business is thriving in Mexico.
Elote or Esquites?
Corn is a hugely popular street food snack amongst Mexicans. Served on the cob, puffed, dried and salted, there are a multitude of ways to consume it. When it’s served grilled on a stick, it’s known as Elote. A more elegant alternative is to enjoy it boiled, cut from the cob and served in a cup topped with lime juice, creamy sauces, chilli and grated cheese. This style is particularly popular in central Mexico where we would see children queuing for it after school. When prepared this way, it’s known as Esquites.
When making Elote, large cobs of corn are boiled then stripped of their husks. The corn is then grilled to bring out the natural sugars and provide some caramelisation before the whole lot is smothered in mayonnaise and topped with grated cheese, salt, pepper and chilli powder. No butter – that’s a westernised addition. Served with the stalk or more practically speared on a stick, it’s a filling snack.
My Elote was enjoyable and certainly impressive to look at but to be honest, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. I suspect though that if you’re raised on a diet of corn, it’s a comfort food that’s associated with great childhood memories. Like Vegemite toast. And there’s nothing wrong with that!