Corn on the cob is not known for being an exceptionally flavorful food. Instead, it offers up a mild flavor that is suitable as a blank canvas for a range of seasonings. Below are some additions that you can use to give your corn on the cob a burst of flavor.
Salt is the most basic spice used to season corn on the cob. Nothing adventurous here, just a simple flavor to complement corn’s sweetness. Salt and melted butter are the classic additions to corn and are simple enough to make corn on the cob the versatile side dish that it is.
Black pepper can be used along with the salt to give corn a mild spark that also works well to complement the subtle flavors of corn on the cob. Like salt, black pepper is not intrusive if used in moderation and complements corn’s flavor while still adding a touch of heat.
Mexico is the birthplace of corn, which means that the cooks in this part of the world have a deeper well of culinary tradition from which to draw when seasoning this ingredient. Mexican corn on the cob is also known as elote, which is the Nahuatl term for it. It’s a popular street food and is traditionally served on a stick. The typical ingredients used to season it include lime juice, a dry Mexican cheese called cotija, and chili powder. Some varieties also include mayonnaise along with the aforementioned ingredients. The corn on the cob seasoned in this way may be grilled over coals or boiled. The spices play off each other perfectly against the background of the corn’s delicate sweetness. The overall flavor profile is creamy, tart, and spicy.
While corn on the cob may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Japanese food, it is actually quite popular there. It is seasonal and you will usually find it sold at festivals and fairs held in August. In Japan, corn on the cob is known as tomorokoshi; grilled corn is yakitomorokoshi. It has been a favorite of the Japanese people since the 16th century, which is when it was brought to the country by the Portuguese. Yakitomorokoshi consists of corn on the cob brushed with soy sauce and mirin. Caramelized soy sauce gives the corn a deeply nutty, savory flavor that is entirely unique. Japanese cooks boil the corn briefly before grilling to shorten the cooking time.
Corn on the cob is a street food in India as well. There, it is called bhutta. Unlike Japan, corn did not make it from the Americas to India as a result of colonialism. It actually showed up well before Columbian times. There have been corn cob sculptures found in India that date all the way back to the 12th century. There are quite a few variations, some of which are similar to elote without the cheese and include lime juice and red chili pepper. Other variations use the podi masala spice blend or chaat masala.
Corn is popular in Africa as well. In the Congo, grilled corn on the cob is consumed as a street food with some of the same ingredients used on Mexican corn. It is typically coated with melted butter as well as chili pepper powder, lemon juice, and salt.