So, sweetcorn is in season right now. In Britain people generally seem to just boil, steam, or grill their corn-on-the-cob, maybe shave off fresh kernels to toss into salads. Perfectly delicious applications – if the corn is good and is perfectly cooked, then it’s already got plenty of flavour and texture. I like mine with plenty of butter, salt, and pepper.
But in Thailand, and probably across South East Asia, sweetcorn is also made into desserts and into fresh sweetcorn milk (นํ้านมข้าวโพด). Let me tell you, every sweetcorn-based thing I’ve had over there was delicious. For example, a couple of years ago I had sweetcorn ice cream at iBerry:
Far right, opposite the matcha roll, bottom scoop. The top scoop is Horlicks. So good! The matcha roll was lovely also. As much as I adore and respect Chin Chin Laboratorists in London and G&D’s in Oxford, I do miss (amongst many other things) ice cream in Thailand.
Whenever we come back from sightseeing and/or visiting relatives up North East, we always seem to stop by at this sweetcorn milk vendor. But we only go to Thailand once every few years, so we have always very much wanted to enjoy fresh sweetcorn milk in Britain. In fact I found the inimitable and magnificent Leela Punyaratabandhu by searching for a sweetcorn milk recipe. I’ve yet to try it as I don’t have a blender, though…
But I have tried out her directions for Coconut Sticky Rice Pudding with Sweetcorn (ข้าวเหนียวเปียกข้าวโพด), which is the image you see at the top. It’s my favourite comfort food which my have parents occasionally made over the years, the kind of thing you don’t really have a recipe for, and was therefore shy about asking. It is easy – a 1:5 ratio of rice:water (in US cups), and – depending on the size of the batch – about an hour’s cooking time, maybe more. I am thankful that I found this; it has soothed me in difficult moments.
For one generous, comforting, healing, restorative bowlful of pudding, I have found that 1⁄4 cup (50g) of long-grain glutinous rice is perfect. Add this, and 5 times as much cold water (1 1⁄4 cup or 295 ml, in this case) to a small saucepan. Set over a medium heat and bring to the boil, then cook, stirring, for 30 minutes.
After that, turn off the heat and add the kernels from 1 ear of sweetcorn, or a few heaped tablespoons of tinned sweetcorn, however much you like. Let everything sit for at least 30 minutes: the residual heat will be enough to warm it all through, and it will encourage the rice pudding to become especially thick and soft.
Then, sweeten it to taste – I generally like 1 – 2 tablespoons white or golden caster sugar. The final step is to season 2 – 3 tablespoons (or, again, however much you want) of creamy, thick coconut milk – preferably the ‘head’ – with a pinch of salt. Most foodies rave about salted caramel; this salted coconut is no different, giving depth and balance to sweet dessert. Scoop the pudding into a bowl and top with the coconut milk. Enjoy.
This caramel-coloured pudding was also made with another of Leela’s recipes, a variation of coconut sticky rice that’s made with palm sugar. It’s incredible – the unique fragrance of palm sugar, smokey with burnt-sugar and sweet sap, makes a truly rich pudding. Usually this is made to go with a good, ripe mango, but I couldn’t help myself and used tinned sweetcorn – look, okay, I know that sounds disgusting, but it was perfectly salty-sweet and delicious. So there.
I made my batch – two generous servings – with 100g sticky rice (½ cup) soaked for a couple of hours, then steamed (on a spatter guard!) for 20 minutes over a medium boil. For the coconut milk-sugar mixture, I used 125g palm sugar shavings (but would have been happier, I think, with 100g), 125ml coconut milk, and ½ teaspoon salt mixed together and microwaved in a medium pyrex mixing bowl on a medium-high heat for 2 minutes to make a very hot, smooth, fragrant mixture. After carefully adding the cooked rice and sweetcorn and covering the bowl with clingfilm, I left it to sit for a little bit more than 40 minutes.
Then I ate it with shameless greed.
(A note on mangoes, by the bye, if you’re a Brit: I would honest-to-goodness recommend seeking out honey mangoes from Pakistan, usually found at South Asian/Middle Eastern/South East/East Asian supermarkets or groceries, the kind which come in red boxes of four yellow-green fruits with tinsel and tissue paper. I think they start appearing in May and taper off during late summer or something.)