One of the more fascinating and addictive Mexican foods is an acquired taste, perhaps because of its dreadful name in english, and its seriously unappealing appearance.
It’s called Corn Smut in english. Or Devil’s Corn. Not very appetizing, until you hear it called Mexican Truffle, or Mexican Caviar. Those names come from people who understand the earthy, fungus flavor with just an underlying hint of corn. The flavor is brought out especially well when served with a warm hand-made tortilla, and a sprinkling of cheese.
Corn smut is considered a disease by American farmers, and they take elaborate pains to eradicate it. Mexicans have been eating it at least since Aztec days, and grow it specifically for consumption.
I had never paid much attention to huitlacoche – it’s a subtle flavor, and can get lost in the company of some of the bolder Mexican dishes. But then I read Miguel Ángel Chávez Díaz de León’s wonderful novel Policia de Ciudad Juarez. A gritty “novela negra” with liberal doses of satire, its main character Comandante Amarillo is addicted to huitlacoche, but finds it hard to come by in Ciudad Juarez. Once I focused on it, I became a bit of an addict myself.
Fortunately, I live in Los Angeles, where huitlacoche is easily available. Today’s travels took me to the Olympic Mercado east of downtown, where food stands pop up on weekends.