Corn smut, devil’s corn and Mexican truffle are all names for the Aztec-era fungus currently being celebrated in restaurants worldwide. Huitlacoche (whee-tala-coach-a) grows on the ears of corn and maize crops, and outside of its home country governments have spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate it. In Mexico, though, it’s revered as a delicacy, eaten cooked or raw, with an earthy flavour similar to mushrooms. The fungus packs a nutritional punch – it’s full of lysine, a nutrient that helps with bone and muscle strength, and keeps skin looking young. It contains more beta-glucens than oats (good for cholesterol) and more protein than almost all other mushrooms. Recently the James Beard Foundation in the US has launched a campaign to officially rename huitlacoche the Mexican Truffle to make it more appealing to American consumers.
In Mexico huitlacoche is in everything from soups and sauces, to enchiladas and quesadillas. Executive regional chef of Rosa Mexicano, Joe Quintana, claims you’ll have no trouble finding ways to experiment with this versatile ingredient: ‘It can be puréed with cream to make a delicious sauce for steak, and we have even made huitlacoche flan for more of a savoury twist on dessert.’ If you can’t get your hands on the fresh huitlacoche sold in Mexico’s food markets, it also comes canned and jarred – which is how Wahaca ship it to their stores.
Martha Ortiz’s exuberant new restaurant Ella Canta, on London’s Park Lane, serves sweetcorn cake filled with huitlacoche for dessert, to much public praise. Ortiz is one of Latin America’s most celebrated chefs and the much-trumpeted opening of her new restaurant takes its inspiration from Ortiz’s Dulce Patria in Mexico City, on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
The world’s love affair with Mexican food has bloomed of late, with Ortiz’s Ella Canta joining a long list of new restaurants that celebrate Latin American flavours, including Santa Remedio, which has been well received in London Bridge. A wave of new Mexican eateries also spread across Sydney this summer, including Fonda and Taqiza in Bondi, and Chula in King’s Cross. Huitlacoche might provide a new way of bringing the lively flavours you find on the restaurant table back into your own kitchen.
Pictured: Huitlacoche sweetcorn cake at Ella Canta courtesy of @ellacantalondon via Twitter, and huitlacoche in Mexico City courtesy of Phil Owens
Content: courtesy of Flavour Feed