Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not your usual corn-on-the-cob!

I fulfilled my desire of enjoying some excellent "Jola" this time in India. "Jola" is the Kannada name for corn-on-cob. In Hindi it is called "bhutta." Since childhood, I have loved this yummy zesty delight that roadside vendors sell, especially during summer time.

What is so special about "Jola?" Isn't it just plain old corn-on-the-cob? I mean, even KFC offers this stuff! Oh no, this is not the steamed sweet corn we are familiar with. I am talking about grilled corn. Again, not the kind of grilled corn you make here on the typical BBQ grill. The grilled corn in India has a very different flavor profile altogether. For one, it is not as sweet as the corn we get here. The way it is grilled/roasted imparts a much better taste. I think that it has everything to do with that coal they use to grill the corn and that hand-fan they use to keep the charcoal burning.

Towards evening, this woman starts shouting, "Jolaaa, Jolaaaaaaaaaa, Jolaaaaaaaaaaaa!" She enters the street (our neighborhood, in this case) pushing a wooden cart full of fresh corn (with husk and all). The cart also has this awesome very basic stove with coal. Yes, this is what she uses to grill the corn. And right next to the stove are a couple little containers. The first one has some lime wedges and salt and the other one has this, as I remember from childhood, utterly delightful mint+green chillies chutney. This chutney is what takes this grilled corn to a whole new level. BUT and this is a BIG SAD BUT(T), I tell ya, I have not eaten that chutney ever since I moved out of India! Mainly because who knows what kind of water they use and who knows what kind of diseases (mostly typhoid, I assume) one might get if that chutney went into one's tummy!

People call the "jola woman" to their gates and select the corn they want. Some people actually remove the husk themselves and poke and prod the corn with their nails to inspect its freshness..........I just ask the vendor to pick out the one she thinks is good and also tell her, "Chuntey beda," meaning, "No chutney." Then she places the corn on that awesome burning coal and uses the hand-fan (made of jute, I think) so as to grill/roast the corn. The fan basically keeps the coal burning, thereby grilling the corn. Every time one section of the corn is grilled, she turns the corn around to grill the other section, until the entire ear of corn is grilled to perfection. Then she places this freshly grilled corn into its own husk (that she had removed earlier) and hands it over to me. I pay her a mere Rs. 10 ($1= approx Rs. 45........) and she gives me this big smile and walks away, shouting, "Jolaa, Jolaaaaa!"

 The Jola woman grilling corn-- see that stove she has?

Grilling the corn on burning charcoal

I take the hot grilled corn to my mom's kitchen and smother it with lemon-juice and salt. And then place myself on the swing in the patio and eat away to glory, enjoying every chewy bite..........

Enjoying the chewy zesty delight!

After returning from India, we tried to re-create that grilled corn-on-cob at home on the backyard grill. But it was nothing like the "jola" back in India........guess I will just have to wait until my next visit to India!

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