Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Little Corn Fungus For Lunch?

I have been wanting to try a Mexican dish called Huitlacoche for some time now. Our friends Chris and Juan tried to describe it to me but it is just one of those things you have to try yourself.

It is the result of Corn Smut, a plant fungus that causes smut disease in corn. This disease causes galls to form on all above ground portions of the corn. Some Mexican corn crops are intentionally infected with the disease and the galls are harvested just before maturity. When cooked they have a mushroom like flavor, "sweet, savory, woody, earthy".

Attempts have been made to introduce huitlacoche into the USA market but for some reason, it has not been quickly accepted. The US Government was hesitant to allow intentional infection of corn crops after having spent millions to eradicate the very same disease in domestic corn crops. An attempt by Chef James Beard to popularize huitlacoche met with mixes reviews, even though he called it "American Truffles".

Anyway.... I decided that if I ever saw the dish, I would try it. After all, I love mushrooms of all varieties so why not? A mushroom is basically a fungus.

Today, I was put to the test. Vitterio's Restrante Italiano, a nice open air restaurant on the Zocalo had Lasagna de Huitlacoche! I told the waiter I wanted to try it and questioned him on the taste, He told me that he liked it and was sure I would as well. Good enough for me! I ordered it thinking it was only 100 pesos so if it was that horrible, it was not a huge loss.

Well, first off, it was black and left little spores stuck to the plate. I took a photo for you and then cut it up into bite size pieces and took another photo. Then I had a half of one of those pieces. It was "OK", different but not repulsive. I had a bigger piece and it was actually pretty good. It tasted kind of like mushrooms but not quite. The texture was mushroom-like. The third bite was good. I finished the plate and even wiped up the spores with a piece of bread. The waiter asked how I liked it and when I told him, he said, "I knew you would"! I will have it again, maybe in a dish that includes tomato sauce.

Here is the fungus on an ear of corn. Delicious looking, eh?


  1. *shudders* Fungus just repulses me. Good for you for trying it!

  2. Hmm sounds interesting, I am willing to try almost everything at least once.

    1. It did not even help when James Beard called it "American Truffles". You should try it George.

  3. That's interesting indeed. I really had no idea what is sometimes offered with the Sanborn's buffet. Now I know. I like it quite a bit! (Here's what an egg dish looks like.)

  4. Interesting meal choice. I'm always game to try something once...or twice...or thrice...when it's good. You sold me on wanting to try it.

  5. See, I knew you would like it! Now the world will know the wonders of huitlacoche.

  6. We enjoy corn-smut often here in Puerto where it is fresh and often available at he mercado. If you buy it, look for dry and bright mushroom-like quality - it should no be too dark or damp.

  7. Interesting. You have adventurous tastes. Great price for a car wash. Be well and safe travels, Ann and Jerry We quite enjoy your blog and have recommended it to others though we have yet to travel via our RV in Mexico.