Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway are Thug Kitchen, the New York Times best-selling authors of Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck, Thug Kitchen: Party Grub, and Thug Kitchen 101: Fast as F*ck. They write occasionally for TASTE about health, cooking, and demystifying canned vegetables.
Ever since the iconic scene in 1988’s Big, there’s been a burning question lingering in the back of everyone’s mind: What in the hell is baby corn? Well, that and isn’t it weird that Elizabeth Perkins’s character basically seduced a 14-year-old boy? That ain’t right and neither is baby corn. Once you start unpacking that shit, you only start having more and more questions. Is baby corn immature corn? Is this some kinda Frankenfood, a bastard child of baby carrots and candy corn? Is baby corn some test tube veggie being pushed on us as part of some secret vegan agenda? Quelle horreur!
Once you start pulling this thread, you begin to realize how little you know about this well-known crudité staple. If it’s just a regular veggie, then why the fuck have you never seen it at the store, or at a farmers’ market? Think about it. Sure, with some light Googling you can get some answers, but take a sec and appreciate your ignorance, for there be spoilers ahead.
Surprisingly enough, baby corn is legit just young corn. Like, that’s it. Not like Tom Hanks in Big young. Like waaayyy younger. It’s grown on your typical Field of Dreams stalks (or Texas Chainsaw Massacre—pick your iconic corn field) and harvested once the silk becomes visible. Apparently humans just decided that sometimes we like to eat corn tiny, and we pick it all young and underdeveloped. Odd, right? The largest producer of baby corn is currently Thailand, but wherever there’s corn being grown there could always be baby corn. Yeah, we’re calling you out, Iowa—step up your game.
Mature corn is normally harvested by machine, but baby corn needs to be hand-picked, making it a real pain in the ass to harvest. The baby corn is then lightly cooked and packed in water or brine. That’s why baby corn is not something you can just go grab in the produce section of your local grocery store. Things that are hand-harvested, like saffron, vanilla, and apparently baby corn, are always going to be more scarce and expensive because that labor ain’t cheap. If you’re lucky you might find some in the canned goods aisle near the peas; otherwise the Internet or your nearest Asian market is your best bet.
But since baby corn is immature when it’s picked, you can eat the whole ear (cob and all), unlike its big brother/future self. The only downside is there isn’t much nutritional value to it, because it got harvested before it had a chance to grow up and get all the vitamins and minerals and good shit that corn usually packs in moderation. But what it lacks in nutritional value it makes up for in straight cuteness. Think of it as the mini-donut of the veggie world.
Baby corn is mostly found in stir-fry dishes in the United States—with other bite-sized veggies for obvious reasons: It provides a nice crunch, and it’s a conversational icebreaker for the date you regret swiping right for. Baby corn straight from the can tastes sweet and just a little pickled, like if fresh summer corn and canned artichoke hearts had a baby, it’d be this silly shit. Slightly soft, mushy consistency and all.
But this adorable little vegetable is versatile as fuck; you can eat it right from the can, roast it, toss it in a salad, eat the kernels off it like regular corn for a predictable laugh, or basically however you want.
Wanna cook something up with it? GLAD YOU ASKED. For starters, you should throw together our fake-out fried rice salad for our most recent book. It’s way healthier than takeout and tastes goddamn delicious. Sure, you could use regular corn kernels, raw or cooked, but baby corn from a can looks goofy as hell, and you get to drop this dope dinner-party trivia you just learned.