In 2012 I was tasked with setting up a Peruvian concept restaurant in London. I eagerly packed my bags, excited for the South American journey to study the art of Nikkei cuisine which is the result of Japanese pioneers migrating to Peru at the end of the 19th century.
Peru had long been on my bucket list of travel destinations – primarily for the chance to climb to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately, this trip kept me on the coast and not up in the mountains, so I still have a good reason to go back!
We started in Lima and spent time researching, eating and learning in the local restaurants and ceviche bars. Then we travelled north to Piura to meet a community that specialises in making natural ceramics and plateware.
It was here in Piura that I first discovered and ate "humitas": seriously delicious steamed corn parcels from a local street vendor. The exterior husk of the corn is used as the parcel wrapper. The filling is made from the juicy corn kernels that have been mixed with shredded pork or chicken, shallot, chilli and garlic. I like to add in some fresh coriander too.
Corn is a staple food in Peru, it is eaten fresh, dried, whole and ground. The Peruvian variety is very distinctive. It's larger, lighter in colour and importantly not as sweet and sugary as we get here in New Zealand.
With corn in full season right now this recipe is a perfect complement to any barbecue or dinner gathering. Just the thought of this recipe has me salivating and takes me straight back to that food memory…I hope you find a food memory in the recipe too.
- Nic Watt is a New Zealand chef and founder of MASU by Nic Watt
Humitas – Corn, Chicken, Chilli and Garlic parcels of goodness
Makes 6 parcels
3 corn cobs with husk
1 mild red chilli
2 garlic cloves
1 large shallot
2 boned skinned chicken thighs cut into 1cm thick lengths
1 hand full fresh coriander sliced
1/4 cup quick cook polenta
1cup chicken stock
100g salted butter
Olive oil for cooking
Fresh cracked black pepper
1. Removed the husks and keep them in long pieces. Boil them for a couple of minutes to soften and allow to cool.
2. Cut the corn kernels from the cob. Place in a food processor and give it a quick blitz to break them down slightly.
3. In a medium pan add a little of the olive oil, brown the chilli, garlic and shallots. Add the chicken thighs, season with black pepper, sea salt and cook through. Remove the cooked spiced chicken mixture.
4. Place the polenta in a medium bowl, heat chicken stock with butter and pour over polenta, stirring in to get a smooth consistency. Mix together with the corn kernels, cooked chicken mixture and sliced coriander.
5. Open out the softened corn husks. Spoon in mixture and wrap like little presents to form 6 even parcels. Tie off with a piece of wet string (wet string stops it burning on the barbecue).
To serve: place the wrapped corn parcels on the edge of the barbecue and allow them to heat up and warm right through, while slightly toasting the husk.