Nothing like the taste of fresh corn
Sweet, tender and creamy, the end of summertime is the best opportunity to enjoy golden fresh corn.
The freshness and mood-lifting sweetness of corn cannot be found in cans. On their own, the ears of fresh corn you pick up from the market are delicate treats, and when the corn is incorporated in a wide range of savory and sweet recipes, the flavor is top-notch.
For the freshness
There are countless ways to cook and enjoy fresh corn, and different kinds of corn are used for different recipes and purposes.
The most ordinary sweet fresh corn of the season packs more juice inside the kernels and it’s not as starchy as the more mature corn and other cultivars, and more fruit-like.
When you come across the fresh corn of the day, the simplest way to enjoy the delight of summer end is to boil the corn in water. The trick is not to overcook it and let the flavor be diluted in the water. Fully cooked corn on the cob will be hot and tender, you can turn off the heat a little earlier and let the corn sit for a few more minutes.
The boiled corn can be eaten directly as a snack without adding anything to it, but you can season it with butter, salt and pepper to make it more like a proper dish. Don’t add salt into the water, which can toughen the corn.
Steaming corn is similar and it’s easier to maintain a crisp texture.
To grill the perfect corn with amazing charred edges to complement the natural sweetness of the kernels, grill the corn in the opened husk with the corn silk removed. In addition to the common butter and lime juice seasoning, you can also try various Chinese spices such as peppercorn salt to add more flavor to the grilled corn.
Corn kernel stir-fry is a household favorite in China during the corn season. It’s a very healthy recipe that adds tiny pieces of cucumber, carrot, pine nuts and some protein (like chicken) to stir-fry with the fresh corn kernels (the ingredients are roughly in the similar size to ensure even cooking), using a simple seasoning of ginger, scallion, salt and sugar.
Golden corn bake, or yumilao, is a sweet treat that can be served as a dessert, almost like a fritter. The fresh corn kernels removed from the cob are boiled and then rinsed in cold water. Add a mixture of corn starch and glutinous rice flour and coat the powder evenly over all the kernels.
In a flat pan, heat up almost half the pan of oil and then pour the oil out for later use. Spread the corn kernels flat and tightly, bake over a low heat and then add the hot oil back to the pan to fry the corn until it’s crispy and can move around as a round pancake. The dish can be served with sugar sprinkled on top for extra sweetness.
Sweet corn cake, or yumibaba, is another soft and aromatic dessert made with corn mash (blended fresh corn kernels) and glutinous rice flour, the mixture is then portioned and shaped onto tender corn husks before steaming for 15 to 20 minutes.
Fresh corn is widely used in making sumptuous soups in China. The large chunks of corn with cob can be boiled with pork ribs or mutton to make a simple, delicious soup, and the flavor of the cob infused in the soup is gentle and warm.
Traditional recipes would also add large pieces of carrot, yam, lotus root and kelp for both the taste and boosted nutritional value.
Fruit corn is a newer kind of corn that has grown in popularity in recent years and suitable for eating raw as a fruit. The kernels of the fruit corn are very plump and juicy with little starchiness, one would feel a delicious pop when eating the fruit corn kernels. It’s also sweeter than regular corn and perfect for using in refreshing salads to add a hint of sweetness.
While the sticky corn, which is commonly grown in northeastern China, is a much heavier, starchier kind that’s more staple-like. Sticky corn has little moisture inside the kernels and are densely packed, it’s ideal to enjoy directly after boiling or steaming, or be added into congee.
The silk of the corn can be quite a bother when it is not completely removed, but in China the corn silk doesn’t go to waste, it’s made into tea to tone down the heat.
Corn silk tea uses the discarded fresh corn silk. Some people would also save the tender husk of the corn as well. The ingredients are simply boiled and simmered in water, then taken out after the tea is ready, leaving a light yellow color. The corn silk tea carries the fragrance of fresh sweet corn and has a very light taste that makes it a perfect drink after a fulfilling meal.
Sweet corn drink
Corn drink, or corn juice, is a classic Chinese beverage that’s especially loved by children. The rich and slightly sticky corn drink can be served hot or cold, and it’s one of the best beverage options for hotpot. The corn drink can be prepared for breakfast with toppings such as toasted nuts and oats.
2 cobs of fresh corn
600ml of water
100ml of milk
Yield: 2 servings
Peel off the husk of the corn and remove all the corn silk so it won’t stick in the blender and disrupt the smooth texture of the drink.
Remove kernels from the cob, the fast way is to cut the corn into smaller segments and then slice off the kernels.
Boil the corn kernels in water until they are fully cooked, sugar is optional as corn is naturally sweet, but can be added in the pot to boost the sweetness.
In a heat-resistant blender, pour the cooked corn with the water inside and add the hot milk, mix on high speed for about a minute and half. If the blender cannot handle high temperatures, let the corn cool down a bit and you can reheat the beverage afterwards if a hot drink is desired.
Sieving the drink through can achieve an extra smooth texture, but the tiny bits of corn kernel also present an interesting chunky texture. Some people also like to add a little bit of condensed milk to enhance the creaminess and sweetness.
For a vegan version, use water as a replacement for the milk and add honey to improve the flavor. The corn drink can also be mixed with steamed pumpkin and carrot to create a sweet blend for the fall season.