Trinidadian boiled corn is a favorite of my husband, who is from Trinidad and Tobago. It is more of an in-between meal and commonly enjoyed on its own, but sometimes served as a side dish. I was introduced to this style of seasoning corn after we were married, and I started to learn how to cook many of his favorite Trinidadian dishes.
The subtle flavor of corn on the cob gets dressed up with a heavy hand of earthy fresh herbs such as culantro (an herb similar to cilantro and known to Trinidadians as shado beni), thyme, and chives. Lots of garlic and few scotch bonnet or habanero take this corn to new heights.
All the flavors are married in a coconut milk broth and cooked down on the stovetop until the broth has reduced enough that it coats the corn. Some people make it without coconut milk and boil the corn in water instead, but I prefer it with full fat coconut milk for the best flavor.
Eating Trini boiled corn is an experience. Enjoying the luscious coconut milk broth with each bite of corn is all a part of the fun of this dish. And you should only eat this corn with your hands; licking your fingers after is absolutely necessary.
We Always Have Trini Boiled Corn At Our House!
You won't find Trinidadian boiled corn find at a restaurant. It is always made by a street vendor or at home. It’s common to find a pot of boiled corn at a casual get-together or a “corn man” outside local Trinidadian festivals and parties serving up hot seasoned corn on the cob or corn soup (which is just what you’d need after a late night).
On the weekends my husband would say, “I’m feeling for some boiled corn, how about you?” He’s not asking for corn boiled in water and topped with a little butter, he was feeling for Trini-style boiled corn. I happen to love corn seasoned and cooked in any form so it’s always a delight to make this recipe.
Cooking Trinidadian Boiled Corn
You’ll need a pot wide enough to hold the corn, but also deep enough so there is space to turn the corn as it cooks. You can leave the corn whole or cut it in halves, or even quarters.
The corn found in Trinidad and Tobago is a little tougher and needs to boil for about 1 hour to soften it up. However, the corn here in the United States from grocery stores or farmers markets is soft and juicy even without cooking, so it does not need to cook as long. Somewhere around 30 to 40 minutes is enough for the flavors of the aromatics in the broth to meld.
How to Choose the Best Corn
For this recipe fresh corn on the cob works best. Frozen corn retains moisture after it thaws, leaving the corn lacking that nice crisp exterior. I like to purchase corn from a farmers’ market because I can always find the best prices. If you can’t get to a farmers’ market, then the grocery store is the next best for fresh corn.
When choosing corn at a market or grocery store, you’ll typically find a large trash bin next to the corn. This is so you can shuck the husk off the corn to make sure it’s not old, has worms, or contains mold. Here are my tips for choosing the best corn:
- The corn should feel firm and heavy relative to its size. That’s how you know it’s full of juice.
- The husk should be bright green and feel slightly damp or moist, especially near the tip where most of the tassels (also known as silk) are.
- Look for corn with husks that tightly hug the kernels. The tassels at the very tip should be light to golden brown. If they are black and extra wet, then pick another ear of corn.
What Type of Coconut Milk to Use
Trinidadian boiled corn is usually made with fresh coconut milk, but for convenience canned coconut milk works perfectly. I don’t recommend using light or sweetened coconut milk. Try to find ones that are full fat and have the least amount of additives. A few of my favorite brands: Chaokoh, Grace, Trader Joes, Arroy-D, and Thai Kitchen.
It’s Corn Season!
Trinidadian Boiled Corn
5 ears corn, shucked and broken into halves
2 (13.5-ounce) cans full fat coconut milk coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salted butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
Leaves from 8 stems thyme
2 culantro leaves or 4 sprigs cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped
20 chives, finely chopped
2 small habanero peppers, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Shuck the corn:
Remove the husk from the corn by holding corn firmly in one hand and firmly peeling the leaves and silk fibers back from the pointed end to the stem end. Yank the husk off the base and discard. Continue to peel until you can see the corn kernels. Repeat this for each ear.
Rinse each ear under running water and remove any straggling silk fibers that are still hanging on.
Halve the corn:
On a cutting board, use a large chef’s knife and cut the corn into halves. If the corn is small enough you can even just snap it in half using your hands.
Bring the liquids to a boil, then simmer:
In a deep and wide pot, add the coconut milk and water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Add the butter, garlic, thyme, culantro, chives, habanero, salt, and black pepper. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Stick wooden toothpicks through the peppers to make them easier to find and fish out later, if you like. Note that piercing the peppers will give more heat to the broth. If you’re a fan of spicy food, then go forth!
Boil the corn:
Add the corn and let it all simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Turn the corn every 8 to 10 minutes using metal tongs or a fork. Be careful not to burst the pepper in the simmer liquid if you don’t want it spicy.
You’ll know it’s ready when the coconut milk is reduced enough that it is thick and coats the corn heavily. You don’t want it like a soup, but more so reduced with some gravy.
Divide the corn and coconut milk between bowls. This can be served by itself or as a side dish.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
To reheat, place the corn in the same pot used to cook it and add 2 tablespoons of water. Over medium-low heat, bring to a simmer and heat for 5-10 minutes.
Alternatively, you can reheat in the microwave for 3-4 minutes until warmed through.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 36g||46%|
|Saturated Fat 30g||152%|
|Total Carbohydrate 24g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 23mg||113%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|