After three weeks of smelling delicous smells and seeing things that looked like they would taste delicious, the gf and I finally decided to bite the bullet and eat some street food. And we were handsomely rewarded (with happiness, not health!).
We figured that we had already been sick and were likely immune enough to the common food bugs as long as we were careful not to eat anything too crazy. The two food items that we see every day, in the park across the street from our flat, are corn and ice cream.
But this is no regular corn. You can choose if you want it boiled or grilled, and then get it covered with any combination that you wish of lime, mayo, salt, cheese, “cream”, and some sort of sweet chile powder. I put cream in quotes because people here seem to call a lot of different things cream, and I’m not sure what that actually means. Except delicious.
So my first corn attempt was lime, salt, and chile powder (this one wasn’t sweet), which seems to be one of the two standards (I basically just let the Corn Woman do her thing, and that’s what she gave me). Although delicious, this was way too many potent flavors for one food item, and I was left feeling thirsty and with burning lips. I imagine that a little sweetness would have gone a long way in that combination.
Then we went and tried the ice cream. A guy sets up his stand in the park, which consists of 6-10 ice buckets that contain metal containers full of ice cream. I started with vanilla, to get an idea of general quality, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was DELICIOUS. The next one I tried was chocolate, since I figured that was another good standard. It tasted a lot like Mexican hot chocolate, only in ice cream form, with all of the many flavors that you would expect. I was pleased.
So then it was time to try the more interesting stuff. (Note: this tasting took place over several days, not back-to-back!) I had noticed that one was flavored elote and another one queso. Corn and cheese. Hmmm…
I figured I’d go with the corn first, since drinking corn juice in China led me to a deeper appreciation of this vegetable as a dessert item. It was quite good, though the corn-kernal chunks here and there ruined the texture a bit. But still delicious.
Next was queso. I was a bit concerned about this, since cheese does not seem to be something that would go with ice cream, but I was encouraged by two ideas. First, that it was probably similar in spirit to cheesecake, and second that, even if it really was cheese, it would probably be the super-mild Mexican cheese like we had used to make quesadillas a week before. So I tried it and OH MY GODS was it delicious! It was extremely creamy, and I still haven’t decided if it actually tastes like cheese or not. And I don’t care. I’ve had a cup (or two) nearly every day since.
The gf tried some of the fruity flavors, which were also tasty, though less interesting. The mango was very good, since it just tasted like eating a mango blended with ice cream. There were most certainly no artificial flavors in any of these choices.
We have become quite content with our ice cream choices here, and after trying a few flavors I went back to the Corn Woman to try a different setup. I had seen children running around since day one with what looked like corn on a stick covered in coconut, like those Snowball junk-food things. Someone in front of me was getting one this time, so I could hear what the items were and repeat it to the Corn Woman.
I don’t have pictures yet (but I will). Basically, the Woman takes the corn cob out of the boiling water and asks me if it is good enough. I’m always indifferent, so I just say “está bien” (“that’s good”) and leave it at that. She then peels off the foliage, tears out the hairs, and chops of a quarter inch of either end, which is followed up by insertion of a thick, sharp, wooden stick into the pulpy part of the corn. Now it is ready for customization:
– Sí. Y queso y chile.
And now I have my mayo-slathered, shredded-cheese-dipped, salt- and chile-covered, piping hot stick of deliciousness. And oh man is it good. I’ll have to try to reproduce that suite of tastes at home, though I don’t know if I’ll be able to without knowing what kind of cheese was used or what was in the chile powder. But I bet I can get close. I’ll post pictures of this thing later, once I’ve taken some.