Like many of my friends, before I came to China I was under the impression that the most common type of corn here was baby corn. But while baby corn in commonly used in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, it is not true for China. In China, and especially in the north of China, regular corn is quite common. Corncobs are sold as street snacks and in the big cities canned sweet corn is found on the shelves of most supermarkets.
Here are two common dishes in which sweet corn is the main ingredient.
Corn and Pine Nuts
This is a clean and simple jiachangcai dish which is definitely more on the healthier side of the scale than most Chinese dishes. It consists of corn grains, pine nuts and diced carrot all stir-fried in shallow oil. The best way to describe it is as a kind of warm salad suited for the modern healthy lifestyle.
Usually a touch of green is added to make the dish more visually appealing. Don’t be surprised to find peas or even diced cucumber in the mix.
This is a classic case of a dish which tastes much better than it looks or sounds, at least to me. Its Chinese name means ‘egg yolk corn grains’ and it looks like sand coated corn. Therefore, I never really felt the need to order it. It took a long time and much peer pressure on behalf of my classmates for me to try it, but when I finally did, it was a pleasant surprise. Like Corn with Pine Nuts, Grainy Corn Kernels is also considered to be a common dish and therefore can be found in many medium sized and big restaurants.
The main ingredient of this dish is canned corn grains and in some versions a handful of green peas are also thrown into the mix. However, the grainy part in the dish’s name comes not from the corn but from the duck egg yolk, flour and salt which really gives it the grainy texture. Some places (especially in Beijing) also sprinkle a pinch of sugar and turn this dish into a kind of dessert.