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Sweet corn in late summer is such a delicacy, especially on the east coast. In the northeastern states, we have what is called butter and sugar corn. It is a mix of white and yellow kernels and resembles creamy butter and cane sugar. And it tastes just like it sounds.
A little further south, there is what is known as silver queen corn. This corn has small white kernels and is so tender and sweet you can eat it raw right off the cob. Then, the cobs can be used to make a delicious vegetable stock for all kinds of chowders.
The best part about sweet corn is that it can be grilled without getting tough and dried out. At state fairs in the US, you can often find vendors selling ears of corn that are simply brushed with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. Grilled corn topped with a creamy sauce, lime, cilantro, and cotija cheese is a popular Mexican dish known as elote. In India, you can find grilled corn topped with a blend of spices being sold from street carts.
Indian street corn is addictive, especially when you make it with sweet corn that compliments the spicy and fragrant seasonings. In fact, this corn recipe hits all the taste buds with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter notes. The spice blend includes cumin, paprika, cayenne, garam masala, and salt. The spices give the corn an enticing red hue.
Even if you aren’t a spicy eater, I think you will like this Indian street corn recipe. I like to pair this with some other Indian-inspired vegetarian dishes, such as pickled carrots and hara bhara kababs (vegetable patties). Now let’s get to this delicious vegetarian and gluten-free recipe.
- 1-1/2 TBS ground cumin
- 1-1/2 TBS paprika
- 1 TBS garam masala
- 1-1/2 tsps coarse sea salt
- 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper adjust as needed
- 6 ears of fresh sweet corn
- 1/4 cup 4 TBS ghee or butter
- 1 lime
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- Assemble your ingredients.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the ground cumin, paprika, garam masala, salt, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
- Preheat your gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Meanwhile, husk the corn and remove the silks. Place the corn on the grill, close the lid, and cook until the corn is just charred and cooked through, turning every couple of minutes. This should take 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the corn is grilling, melt the ghee or butter, chop up the cilantro leaves, and slice the lime in half.
- When the corn is finished cooking, brush it with the ghee or butter. Liberally sprinkle the seasoning blend on all sides of the corn. Top the corn with cilantro and squeeze the fresh lime juice to finish.
- Serve the corn while warm with lots of napkins.
Notes & Tips
- I highly recommend using fresh corn as soon as you buy it, preferably ears of corn that you have purchased from a farmer’s market or roadside farm stand where the corn was picked that morning. Fresh corn kernels have a good amount of moisture that will keep it from drying out on the grill.
- If the corn isn’t that fresh, try this tip: Peel the husks back from the corn, but not off of the stem. Remove the silks and return the husks over the corn. Fill your sink with cold water and place the corn in the water to soak for 1 hour. Then, grill the corn in the husks. The corn will steam and remain moist. When the corn is cool enough to handle, remove the husks and place the ears back on the grill just to warm them through and to impart a little smoky flavor.
- You can double or triple the spice mixture in this recipe and keep it in a sealed jar for later use or to season other Indian dishes.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
If you don’t have time to fire up your outdoor grill or the weather isn’t cooperating, you have a couple of options for cooking the corn indoors. Use a grill pan or griddle over high heat. If you have a gas stove, you can cook the corn over the flame, turning often.
Ghee (clarified butter) is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine. If you are vegan, you can use a dairy-free spread or even a little vegan mayonnaise. If you don’t like either option, take the lime and cut it in half. Dip the lime into the spice mixture and rub it on the cooked corn. The lime juice will help the spices to stick. Do this for each ear of corn.
The spices called for in the recipe are fairly classic to Indian cuisine and easy to find in your local market. But really any Indian spice blend will do. You can even get a pre-made Indian dry rub or seasoning blend to save a step.
For some, fresh cilantro is an acquired taste. I didn’t use to enjoy it when I was younger. Now, I can’t get enough of it. A good substitute is Thai basil that you can chiffonade into thin strips. The only thing about fresh basil is that it discolors quickly when cut with a metal knife. So, unless you have those fancy ceramic blades in your utensil drawer, slice the basil at the very last minute before placing it on the corn.
I doubt you will have leftover Indian street corn. If you do, cut the kernels off the cobs and use them to make a salad with diced red onion, halved cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, and a dressing made with lime juice and some of the spice blend.