Taiwanese Grilled Corn

>>  Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Taiwanese Grilled Corn
I'm convinced there's absolutely no better way to enjoy corn than this.

Perhaps it's the combination of culture, memories, and large doses of nostalgia. After all, this is my mom's special grilled corn recipe. We ate it while grilling the first time I ever swam at a "beach" as a kid (yes, it was just a lake beach in the land-locked Midwest, but I absolutely loved it).

Whenever my mom visited Boston (back when we didn't have a grill), she would make this at my sister's place, which has multiple grills. Every single time, it was fantastic and we could never get enough of it. This Taiwanese-style of grilled corn is really, really tasty. Imagine -  sweet, charred, almost caramelized corn with hints of garlic, soy, and sweet chili sauce.

In Taiwan, you'll most often see this type of grilled corn served at night markets, although it appears in  traditional outdoor markets as well.

I called my mom this past weekend in a moment of desperation when trying to figure out what to make for my relatives who were coming over for dinner.

My mom saved the day.

And I was floored how simple this recipe was.
There are just three ingredients in this magical sauce. Soy paste, which is a thick form of soy sauce, sweet chili sauce (tian la jiang), and lots of garlic. If you want to make it spicier, you can add some sort of chili oil or chili sauce.
You know how Asian moms are - there's no such thing as measurements.

"Start with some soy paste, and then add some sweet chili sauce, and then mash some garlic inside."

"Umm . . . can you give me some sort of ratio? Is it like 1:1? Or mostly chili sauce? Mostly soy paste?"

Turns out it's roughly 4:1 - with soy paste being the main ingredient. I'm glad I asked! I was totally considering trying a 1:1 ratio . . .
Mix together the sauces with lots of fresh, smashed garlic. I think the amount of garlic you add is largely personal. I can't see you going wrong either way. I chose to add about 4-5 cloves, and I smashed them up real good to try to extract as much "garlic juice" as possible.

Stir everything together and set aside. It's nice to let the flavors meld a bit while you grill.
And then start grilling the corn!

We don't do any of those fancy tricks to try to keep the corn moist. We just throw the cobs (shucked) straight on the hot grill. Rotate it every few minutes so that it can char as evenly as possible.
After about 15-20 minutes, when the corn is just starting to char, start brushing it with the sauce. Do this over and over again, rotating the corn every few minutes and reapplying the sauce.
Pretty soon, the corn will be gorgeously charred and will have absorbed much of the flavorful sauce. If you coat the corn cob 2-3 times with sauce, you'll end up with a lighter tasting cob. Slather it 5-6 times, and the flavor will be more intense (more preferred, in my opinion, but minds may differ).

In Taiwan, they finish the whole cob off by slathering lard all over it before serving. You can do the same with butter or oil. Or, if you're like my mom, you just skip that step entirely.

Frankly, it's pretty tasty either way.


Taiwanese Grilled Corn
4 tablespoons soy paste
1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed
hot chili sauce (optional)
6-8 ears of corn, shucked

Mix together soy paste, sweet chili sauce, and smashed garlic cloves. Set aside. Grill corn on a hot grill until the corn begins to char, about 20 minutes. Brush on the marinade and turn the corn, repeating this 3-4 times, or according to your preference for intensity of flavor.

Nom nom nom . . .

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