Street food has just never been a part of the Coast’s food scene, partially, at least, because cities are hesitant to allow street-side food stands. What a pity and how short-sighted. Food trucks have struggled too, and I am not sure why, but there is one Mexican street food that seems to be gaining popularity, at least in restaurants, and that’s Mexican street corn.
Mexican street food is quite diverse and includes tacos (of course), molto, tortas, gorditas, and tamales, but the most popular is always grilled corn. The real deal would be grilled over a charcoal fire on a busy street corner, although Google recipes vary from grilled, to steamed, baked, and boiled. If you want it to be right, use the fire. A hardwood fire would be best, followed by hardwood charcoal, and then it all goes downhill from there. Don’t you dare use a microwave.
My favorite street corn is found at La Nortenia in Biloxi. I am not sure what all the ingredients are, but it surely includes lime juice, queso fresco (maybe mayo too), spices like chili powder and perhaps thyme. I may not have figured out all the ingredients but it is amazingly delicious and amazingly messy. Make sure to have a roll of paper towels handy. Grilled corn can be served as an appetizer, but I think they are good enough to stand alone and be the main course. Served with a cold beer, it’s hard to think of anything better. It is perhaps the ultimate picnic food.
Mexican street corn is a great culinary idea, but why not Italian grilled corn? Fire-grilled corn (you know the Italians are crazy about almost any tapas cooked over a fire that has simmered down to white hot coals) tossed in garlic butter, add a splash of a good, long-simmered red sauce and plenty of freshly grated parmesan.
What would a Gulf Coast version be? I think corn simmered in a spicy crab boil, then grilled, and then seasoned with Tonys. I would not object to grilled corn that is smoked and served with a good BBQ sauce. Would you?
The messiness of street corn really is a problem, but the Mexicans solve part of the problem by inserting a stick into the center of the corn making a nice handle that will at least help keep your hands clean. Good street corn can be really very messy and I can’t think of a way to keep it from getting all over your face, other than small bites, but who wants to do that?