When we were kids, the only kind of corn we got in the markets was the white corn. Like a string of the best pearls, it sat in its green casing, golden silk showing up here and there. If you pierced a pearl with your nail, it oozed thick white milk, holding promise of flavor. Most times, we ate it like this–at home or outside. It was and still is very difficult to stop the salivation when one sees corn being roasted on the cob. The frustration of not being able to dislodge a bit of corn skin stuck in your teeth is small price to pay.
These days, however, all we get in the markets–supermarkets or local markets likewise–is the yellow corn; which is great in its own right but I do miss the humble white corn of my childhood. I miss going to the market and spending a tad too long on choosing the perfect ear of corn and walking back home with dreams of eating my mother’s Makyaachi usal. “Usal,” here, is a misleading term; an usal is typically made using whole, sprouted grains, but that’s what we call it at home. In reality, the texture is more like creamed corn. In Indore, it is known as “Bhutte ka kees” or quite simply, grated corn, but oh, I can tell you it is so much more! The recipe is embarrassingly simple but this versatile dish can be served in many avatars–as a side with roasted meats and veggies (like you would serve mashed potatoes), as a breakfast dish with hot, buttered toast (like you would serve scrambled eggs), or just by itself by the bowlfuls on a cold, rainy evening.
As I sit at my table racing against time to meet a deadline, a sick child tugging at my sleeve, watching dark clouds cross the hills and come toward us holding promise of rain, I am reminded of this warm, comforting dish–its reassuring flavors and textures calming my soul. And as luck would have it, I have pictures of the usal I made last year. You could just as well make it using yellow corn, but if you do happen to find some of the good old white stuff, please make this. It’s tastes of mother’s love.
Creamed Corn (Maharashtrian Style)
- 2 cups white (or yellow) corn kernels
- 1 cup milk
- 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
- 2 green chilies, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. ghee
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- A pinch of asafetida
- Salt to taste
- Sugar to taste
- Freshly grated coconut to serve
- Freshly chopped green coriander to serve
- Place the corn kernels and milk in a food processor and process to a coarse but homogenous paste.
- Heat the ghee in a non-stick wok. Add the cumin seeds, chopped green chilies, and asafetida in quick succession and saute for a second.
- Tip in the onions and saute until translucent. Add the corn and milk mixture and season with salt and sugar. Stir once and cover to cook (aout 5 minutes).
- Serve piping hot, garnished with freshly grated coconut and finely chopped green coriander.