In the Jack Black movie Nacho Libre, the hero and his sidekick ate some delicious looking seasoned corn on the cob that was being sold on the streets in Mexico. And they used it as a projectile weapon to great comic effect.
It looked delicious, didn’t it? Is it a real thing? And, if so, what is it and how is it made?
The corn in Nacho Libre is definitely a real thing. It is a Mexican snack that is sold by street vendors but is also popular at festivals, fairs, markets, and all sort of other events or places.
Mexicans call young corn, especially corn on the cob elote. This word comes from the Native Nahuatl word elotl and refers to young corn when used as a vegetable, as opposed to dried and used as a flour, or something like that.
Street vendors sell elotes that have been boiled or grilled and dressed with different seasonings or condiments, and usually served on a stick, but sometimes they are served with the husk, and the husk is pulled down and then used as a handle.
The boiled elote might be slathered with mayonnaise, sour cream, or butter and then rolled in grated cheese, such as the very salty cojita, and aged cow’s milk cheese with a strong flavor. You could think of it as something like Mexico’s answer to Parmesan.
Grilled elote might also be dressed with various condiments, but they are often enjoyed simply with lime juice, salt, and some chili powder. When grilled, they are kept in the husk. On a visit to Mexico, you might see elote vendors pushing carts with big pots for boiling the corn, or with the grills with the husked corn cooking on them. As well, vendors might have small stands on the street-sides.
Elote is not the only form of corn sold by street vendors. The corn is also shaved off the cob and used to make esquites, which are corn kernels boiled in water and seasoned with salt and epazote. Epazote is a pungent (you might say stinky) her that has, as you might guess, a very strong taste to go with its smell. It is also called skunkweed, pig weed, wormseed, adn goosefoot. This herb has been used in Mexico for hundreds of years, both in food and as a medicine. It is poisonous in large quantities, so it is used sparingly.
After cooking with the epazote, the esquites are scooped into little cups and garnished with lime juice, salt, and chili powder. Sometimes, instead of boiling, the esquites are cooked on a Mexican comal (which is a flat griddle type grill), but then served in a similar way.
Street vendors will typically sell both elotes and esquites. Each are also used as ingredients in other dishes like soups. The elotes, when used in soup, are cut into 3 or 4 sections.
Sopa de elote is a soup made with corn kernels that are sliced off the elote and cooked in a soup with a chicken or vegetable broth; milk, cheese, peppers and spices.
Below are links to some recipes for elote corn on the cob as well as a recipe for sopa de elote.
Do you have any experience with elote you’d like to share? Have you ever had any in Mexico? Maybe you have a better recipe, or a recipe for sopa de elote. If so, please feel free to share in the comments below.