Mexico is the 5th most biodiverse country in the world and on a recent trip to Oaxaca we saw how many incredible different types of produce they have just in their local markets. Coming from a UK supermarket where everything is flown in from all around the world it is pretty incredible visiting these markets where all the produce is locally grown and the variety is incredible.
Huitlacoche is one of those Mexican produce that is impossible to get fresh in the UK so at Wahaca we get it brought in from Mexico canned. (We are hoping to encourage some British farmers to grow the huitlacoche for us!)
It is a very new flavour and ingredient in the UK and it is through Wahaca that many are probably trying it for the first time. Probably half the time not knowing what they are eating but hopefully enjoying the flavours.
I therefore thought it would be good to tell you all a little more about this ingredient.
Huitlacoche is a fungal, and in Mexico a culinary delicacy, that grows on ears of corn as they ripen after a heavy rain or period of high moisture. While most farmers will treat it like an infectious affliction that ruins corn crops, it has a long history in the cuisine of the Aztecs, Hopi & Zuni.
The Zuni Indians call the corn fungus corn-soot and say it symbolizes the “generation of life” whereas farmers have called it smut, soot or devil’s corn. The word huitlacoche comes from two words in Nahuatl, the language of ancient Aztecs occupying the area that became Mexico.
“Huitlatl” means excrement and “coche” means raven which apparently is named so because the first time Aztec farmers discovered it they saw the grey appearance on the corn and thought it was ravens excrement. Fortunately as some of the best culinary discoveries have been made someone decided to try it out and discovered one of the most appreciated delicacies in Mexican cuisine. For more information click here for the Wikipedia page.
Huitlacoche has been used in Mexican cuisine since then adding a rich, earthy and pungent flavour to stews, tamales, taquitos and quesadillas. We cooked with it in Mexico at Casa Oaxaca with renowned Mexican chef Alejandro Ruiz.