Corn, or ‘maíz’ as it is known in Spanish, is more than just an ingredient in Mexico, it is the soul of the nation’s culinary and cultural identity. While many associate corn with tortillas, the use of corn goes much farther in Mexican cuisine than just these flat breads. Eddie’s Mexican Restaurant would like to share how corn is used in many different ways when creating amazing Mexican cuisine.
What is the Origin of Corn in Mexico?
Corn’s relationship with Mexican cuisine can be traced back over 9,000 years. Ancient civilizations, such as the Maya and the Aztecs, considered maiz or corn to be a gift from the gods. It was not just a food source but was central to their mythology, ceremonies, and daily life. Corn’s importance is summarized in the Mayan creation myth where humans were fashioned by the gods from maize and water.
Beyond tortillas, corn’s versatility can be found in a number of Mexican dishes. Here are some of the different ways corn is used in Mexican cuisine.
• Tamales: These are steamed or boiled pockets of masa or corn dough often filled with meats, cheeses, chilies, or fruits, wrapped in corn husks. From the savory ‘tamal de elote’ to the sweet ‘tamal de dulce’, the varieties are vastly varied.
• Pozole: A traditional soup or stew made from hominy or dried maize kernels that have been treated with a high level of alkali, usually cooked with pork, and garnished with radishes, chilies, onion, lettuce, and oregano.
• Atole: A warm, often thick beverage made from masa, sweetened with piloncillo which is a raw cane sugar and flavored with ingredients like chocolate or fruits.
• Chilaquiles: Fried tortilla triangles simmered in red or green salsa and topped with cheese, cream, and sometimes shredded chicken.
• Elote: Grilled or boiled corn on the cob, typically generously coated with butter, mayonnaise, chili powder, and lime. Its off-the-cob version is called ‘esquites’, which is corn kernels mixed with the same delicious toppings.
• Nixtamalization: A pre-Columbian process where dried corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater. This process enhances the nutritional value of corn and gives it the distinct flavor and texture seen in many traditional dishes.
Corn’s Nutritional Benefits
Corn is not just delicious, it is also nutritious. Rich in fiber, it aids digestion and helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels. It is also a good source of antioxidants, B vitamins, and minerals like zinc and magnesium. The process of nixtamalization further increases its health benefits by adding calcium and making niacin which makes Vitamin B3 much more absorbable.
Authentic Mexican Cuisine in Las Vegas, Nevada (Just Minutes from Summerlin, North LV, Paradise, Lone Mountain & Henderson, NV)
Corn, in Mexican cuisine, goes well beyond its role as a staple food. It narrates the story of a nation, from its ancient civilizations to modern day fiestas. Every kernel carries with it a piece of Mexican history, culture, and culinary innovation. As you bite into a tamale, sip on atole, or relish a bowl of pozole, remember that you’re partaking in a legacy that is as golden and enduring as the grain itself. For a number of dishes that puts corn at its center, come on down to Eddie’s Mexican Restaurant today.