I was recently introduced to Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad) by my daughter who was visiting from New York. One evening, she agreed to make a side dish for dinner, and while I was preparing the salmon for the main course, I couldn’t help but be wowed by the colorful corn salad she was preparing.
Esquites are kernals of corn slathered with mayonnaise, crumbled cheese, lemon juice, chili powder and cilantro – usually served in cups by Mexican street vendors. “Spicy, crunchy, creamy” are words that can be used to best describe this dish. It worked perfectly with my salmon, but would also be great as a side for a barbeque.
You can use either fresh or frozen corn for this dish, but I can tell you right up front that using fresh corn is the best. I like to char my corn a bit as I cook in on the stovetop, however you can just cook it normally.
For part of the year, I live very close to the Mexican border, in fact, so close that if I’m not careful heading south on the freeway, I might wind up crossing over into Tijuana! Due to my love of Mexican food, I recently took a tour of various Tijuana street food vendors- I tasted tacos stuffed with mariscos (sea food), tostadas topped with ceviche, tortas stuffed with cheese and finely sliced roast beef (and even ice cream served at a shop next to a Sam’s Club) but no Esquites! However, it doesn’t matter since I am now able to make my own!
Interviewing an owner of a Tijuana street food outlet: “What, no esquites for sale?”
- 3 cups corn, fresh or frozen
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1-2 garlic cloves, diced
- ½ cup scallion greens (green part of spring onions)
- Juice from 1 lime
- ½ jalapeno, seeded and diced
- ½ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 2 oz cotija cheese (or feta cheese)
- 2 tsp chili powder, to taste
- chili flakes, to taste
- salt to taste
- If using fresh corn, remove the corn kernels from the cobs (using about 4 cobs). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the corn kernels and stir occasionally until the corn turns golden brown or slightly charred. Alternatively, prepare frozen corn according to directions on package.
- Transfer corn to a large bowl, add remaining ingredients and adjust seasoning according to taste. Garnish with a slice of lime and several pieces of whole cilantro (coriander). Serve warm or cold.