Hello, we know this! you might say and of course you do. Everyone remotely familiar with Mexican, Cuban cuisine has had a combination of corn, crema, cheese, chile and lime. Blogs have waxed lyrically for years about classic Mexican street food staples like Elote en vaso (corn in a cup) is classic Mexican street food and the famous grilled corn of Café Habana in New York or it’s West Coast outlets. Understandably people don’t mind queueing for this delicious comfort food and tuck into these with abandon although there is no elegant way of eating the creamy-spicy-limey-salty-cheesy charred corn ears.
This heavenly combination is the reason for my constant return to these and since NY and the nearest Café Habana is not exactly round the corner one has to come up with an approximation of the original. Purists will flinch now and faint but, lacking a few crucial ingredients like Mexican crema or cotija cheese, this must eternally remain a desperate trial to come close to the ideal. So, while pondering this philosophical conundrum off we go grilling the first beautiful ears of corn of the season until charred which will not involve lighting the bbq and waiting anymore since we have joined the dark side and bought a gas grill. Almost instant gratification (yeah!) and much, much safer when two toddlers aged two are running amok.
No surprise the children love these, too, anything that involves assembly and eating with your hands. For a twist: The other day I could not find any Mayonnaise but discovered a lost (just still in date, sigh of relief) bottle of Kewpie in the fridge door and what a lucky coincidence that was. The Japanese Mayo adds a little extra umami to the already heavenly combo and I might go this route more often…
Charred corn Café Habana style
Makes 4. And a gentle reminder that this is an approximation when one has no original ingredients at hand
4 ears of corn
3 tablespoons full fat Mayonnaise (for a difference try Kewpie Mayo)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 very generous pinch of ground cumin
grated Cotija cheese (or Parmesan cheese)
ground chiles / chili powder / Cayenne pepper
juice of 1-2 limes
Grill corn on all sides until nicely charred in places. Mix mayo with sour cream (alternatively just use mayo), salt and cumin. Slather each ear of corn with a thin layer of this cream, sprinkle with cheese and chili powder to taste, finish with a squeeze of lime. Tuck napkin in shirt and enjoy.