Taiwanese Street Corn
I know what you must be thinking now, "Corn in February? Really?!?!" Yeah, I know I'm jumping gun more than a bit on this one, but here in Durham we've been inundated by rain and more rain, which has severely hampered my grilling time as well as left my yard more of a mud pit than gathering space. So I've fallen behind in my recipe development and have been left with pulling from a stockpile of items either meant for another time of year or dishes that have sat dormant for years. That's how we've arrived at this Taiwanese street corn post at the end of winter, which, in all honesty, will better serve you during the corn season that's still many months away, but at least that wait will be well rewarded.
The great thing about this Taiwanese corn is that you get a lot of milage out of just few ingredients. The slathering sauce began by working some shallots and garlic into paste in a mortar and pestle, which rendered their flavor into something incredibly strong, sharp, and slightly pungent.
The next two ingredients you'll probably need to hit up your local Asian market for—Taiwanese soy paste and chili sauce. Soy paste is thick and syrupy with a very salty, savory, and lightly sweet taste that can't really be swapped in with soy sauce. The chili sauce is tart and sweet with only mild red peppery kick to it.
After mixing these four ingredients together, it tasted very fully flavored, but I was missing a little extra touch of heat for my personal taste, so tossed in a bit of cayenne pepper to up the spiciness. After that, it tasted like it was going to do some real magic on sweet grill-roasted corn.
I used to be an advocate of grilling ears of corn in foil or in their husk, but have given that up for the most part. Having the corn protected by some sort of wrapper increased the cooking time and decreased the char, and I've come to appreciate faster cooked corn with more caramelization in recent years—more browning and blackened in spots just gives the corn a better grilled flavor in my opinion.
I began brushing the sauce on the corn once I saw a bit of charring happening, but I found that waiting to apply just at the end of cooking was actually a better method.
The sauce caramelized quickly and ended up sticking to the grates, so those first brushings of sauce ended up being mostly lost by the time the corn was done cooking. However, the last brushing or two baked down well without releasing, so only a couple minutes was actually needed between applying the sauce and when it was at its best state for consumption.
And that sauce made for one excellent corn variation. The first taste was super savory with a sharp garlicky bite that had a faint touch of heat. There was also an initial sugary quality that was enhanced and given new life as the kernels of corn burst open and released their fresh sweetness with each bite. After writing this, I could care less if it's winter, I now just want to go out and pick up some corn to have more of this now!
Taiwanese Street Corn
- Yield 6 servings
- Prep 5 Minutes
- Cook 15 Minutes
- Total 20 Minutes
- 2 tablespoon roughly chopped shallots
- 2 medium cloves of garlic
- 4 tablespoons soy paste
- 2 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 ears of corn, shucked
- Kosher salt
- Place shallots, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle and work into a paste. Transfer paste to a small bowl and add in soy paste, chili sauce, and cayenne pepper; whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place corn on grill and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over, 10-15 minutes total. Brush ears of corn with sauce all over and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until sauce caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Remove corn from grill, let cool slightly, then serve immediately seasoning with additional salt to taste.