Will summertime barbecue’s favorite vegetable become the next big thing in refined cuisine?
Is Corn the Best New Thing in Food?
New York food scene insider Rita Jammet posted a photo on her Facebook page with the caption, “Can anyone identify what this is?” It was twisty and bumpy like some sort of a sea creature. I was stumped. Was it squid? Eel? Sea cucumber? One person guessed, “Grilled octopus with hummus?”
Turns out, this was the latest creation of the culinary magicians at Momofuku. Their crispy, curly, deep fried corn strips are the best new thing in food.
There, I said it and I stand by it: the best.
The “Fried Curly Corn-on the-Cob” is the brainchild of Max Ng, who, last month, became the executive chef of Momofuku Ssam Bar, promoted from Chef De Cuisine at Momofuku Ko. It’s part of the David Chang empire, the team that pushes boundaries with all foodstuffs.
“Drag each corn slice through the ricotta and aioli and then eat it with your fingers as if you’re eating ribs,” Josh, the bartender instructs me.
These corn “ribs” are whole corn cobs cut lengthwise into long skinny wedges. First, they’re flash fried in canola oil causing the cobs to curl and harden, as the kernels sweeten and take on a toasty caramel flavor and deep golden hue. Next, they’re tossed with Old Bay seasoning and minced parsley and casually piled on a plate smeared with squid ink aioli and homemade ricotta.
I’m rarely blown away by a dish, but this one was exceptional. It’s a combination of the best finger-licking food experiences and flavors, like the center of a gustatory Venn diagram of barbecued ribs, a Maryland crab boil and Mexican street corn (that’s grilled corn, slathered with Mexican sour cream, sprinkled with cojita cheese and chile pequin—a.k.a. elote, the last best thing to happen to corn in America).
Just as Josh instructed, I pick up each corn “rib,” sloppy with cream and salty lemony (but garlic-free) aioli and gnaw the kernels like meat off a bone. This is the most fun way I have ever experienced corn. At $15 a plate, it’s well worth it for a treat, but I want to be able to serve these babies myself.
The recipe is easy enough if you have a deep fryer. Simply shuck each cob and trim the ends, then—hardest part—cut the cobs lengthwise into sixths or eighths depending on size. Flash fry them at high heat, toss with Old Bay and serve with a creamy lemony dip. The squid ink aioli doesn’t have any eggs, but it’s bright with citrus and rich with umami. Any combination of creamy and acid will be a perfect pair.
I tried a simpler version at home, in less oil, tossed with chat masala and served with mayo. Delicious.
Ready or not, Instagram, here we come.