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Jul 16, 2006 03:43 PM

What IS that crumbly cheese on Mexican chili-cheese corn on the cob (elote)?

It is not parmesian though it seems that Mexican corn on the cob is the darling of dieters ... rub corn with non fat mayo, sprinkle with low fat parmesian cheese and chili ... aye carumba ... no, no, no.

I was checking out local Mexican markets for cheese in general, but they seem to have a few types of powdery Mexican cheese. The most common I've finding in on-line recipes is queso cotija. Is that correct? That was what this recipe says, but they also say you can use feta, so what does epicurious know about food anyway?

And is it always mayo and not margarine? From my local street vendors it seemed margarine was being used ... please let it be margarine because mayo ain't yellow.

Then again, while Googling, I found this interesting article about Mexicans and mayo ...

"Venture through one of the Gigante chain of grocery stores and you’ll find no less than 39 different sizes, types and brands occupying 6 shelves, each 321⁄2 feet long: original, lime, chipotle and other chili flavors"

The above link says it is crumbled Oaxacan cheese. Is that the same as queso cotija?

I've been noticing that the texture is different depending on the street vendor, some is very fine cheese and others have a slighly coarser texture.

Any thoughts on this?

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  1. I just looked around at recipes online and from what I read, cotija is the crumbles, Oaxacan cheese is for melting. I know that when I've had corn on the cob with crumbles in the past it was with cotija (according to the menu).

    I'm certainly no expert but that's what I gleaned from looking at recipes that called for BOTH - so it seems they are different?

    7 Replies
    1. re: krissywats

      Oaxacan cheese is for melting - great in quesadillas and stuffed squash blossoms. Cotija is the very small crumbled cheese you find topping beans or guacamole at some Mexican restaurants. Usually what they put on corn is called queso fresco, which I believe does come from the Oaxacan region, but is not known as Oaxacan cheese. You can buy it at some grocery stores and any Mexican grocer, as well as some larger ethnic grocery stores (for example, Fubonn in Portland).
      Cotija does have similar texture/consistency as feta, and both are salty, so in a pinch, I've subbed feta for cotija. Queso fresco is usually coarser, thicker and less small crumbles than cotija.
      Hope that helps. They're all delicious!

      1. re: JessWil

        Fresco melts too, but not as gooey as Oaxaca.

        Basically you use Cojita (Also Anejo) to garnish because it has such a strong taste.

        Fresco (or Ranchero/Panela) to stuff, Enchiladas, Chile Rellenos, etc...

        Oaxaca to melt, quesadillas, etc...


        1. re: Dommy

          Thanks everyone. And special thanks Dommy for an answer to this and other recent questions.

          This is the thing I love about Chowhound, really love. It is not just reporting about what you ate, it is the interaction. No matter how obscure the subject, someone knows the answer and you don't need to wonder.

          Again, thanks all.

          1. re: rworange

            Thanks for giving us such great topics!! I was just telling SO about this post and the freak-out I had over Epicurious having a recipe for what we call "Mayo Corn"... LOL!! Not that that we never had the inclination to want to make it ourselves, but we have a regular AWESOME Mayo Corn guy and his corns cost $1!! Way cheaper than what we'd be able to make at home... LOL! All we have to do is wait to hear his horn...

            *honk!*honk!* :)


            1. re: rworange

              So the universal signal of the corn vendor is the honking horn ... corn has a voice, it honks.


              1. re: rworange

                Pretty much...

                My SO just learned this nuance... As we just moved to a new neighborhood and in his four years in L.A. he always complained that he didn't have a tamale guy like in SF, I told him jokingly that it was because he lived on the Westside... there are plenty of Tamale guys where I grew up in So. Central.

                Well, we're a month into this new place (also westside, but not as west) and I am cooking dinner and hear a honk in the distance... I'm like... can it be...

                I hear the Honk again... and I KNOW. So I called out to SO, "HONEY! There's your Tamale guy..." He thought I was just teasing him... but went to take a look anyway... A few minutes later he comes racing in with Mayo Corn and Two Tamales happy as a clam!! :)

                And so now SO has learned that the sound of Chiming bells... *Ring!*Ring!* is the Paletero (Ice Cream Cart Guy, which also makes him happy LOL!). The sound of a Hand Horn *Honk*Honk* is Snacks (including Mayo Corn) and Tamales.


            2. re: JessWil

              Queso Fresco is different wherever you get it. In Costa Rica it melts beautifully. I think that it is best to make it yourself. The stuff that i had was simple but had an extraordinarily unique flavor, also it was foamy and light but very moist. The packaged queso fresco at Supermarkets is expensive and really not flavorful, any mexican market will carry there own version of Queso Fresco so you can hope to find a favorite.


          2. I double roast the corn. Soaking the ears in water for a couple of hours and then grilling unshucked. Then shuck, lightly spread with mayo and grill again then spread each ear with crema and a good spicy chili powder and some fresh lime juice. If I am going to use cheese it would be the cotija, but add some good chili powder (the real stuff ground from pure chilis not store blends) and a bit of lime.

            1. Yes, Cotija is the cheese you need for elotes con todo, it crumbles very easily. You can make it as fine or coarse as you'd like. McCormick's is the brand of mayo most frequently/easily found in Mexico. You can use either mayo or crema, or both. Be sure to give the corn a healthy squeeze of lime juice. I run some chile de arbols through the spice grinder to use as the chile component. Finish with cotija. Can also be served off the cob, just layer the ingredients - corn, mayo/crema, squeeze of lime, sprinkle of chile, repeat.

              6 Replies
              1. re: DiningDiva

                does Cotija dry as well, so that when grated it resembles Parmesan in texture? Could swear I've seen it this way in tubs.

                My current favorite for stuffing and "melting" (actually it just softens) is Casero by El Mexicano brand out of San Jose. Not nearly as salty as Cotija, and just yummy when it gets hot&soft!

                1. re: toodie jane

                  Cotija is pretty dry, tho I think the moisture content is still higher than parmesan. I rub it between the palms of my hands to get the very fine grain. You just keep rubbing until you get the size you want.

                  I like the El Mexicano brand of crema.

                  1. re: DiningDiva

                    if you can find some, try Chapala brand Crema de la Mesa. Wow!

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      Do you have the manufacturer info on the Chapala crema. I tried Googling for it but just came up with a bunch of refrences to Lake Chapala in Mexico. Also tried Chapala crema de la Mesa and got a ton of recipes in Spanish (which is not big deal since I can read Spanish), but nothing remotely resembling product info. I'm in Southern California, sourcing it may not be that hard.

                  2. re: toodie jane

                    I've actually seen Cotija refered to as Mexican Parmesian. I went to a Mexican grocer after reading that Cotija is a flavorful, yet lowfat cheese, just to try some. It came in a bag already finely crumbled. I freakin love this stuff. Since I've been dieting I had pretty much gave up cheese. Not now. I put it on everything. In moderation of course.

                  3. re: DiningDiva

                    My daughter raved about the Mexican corn from the vendor at the farmers market. I finally tried it and it was good, but it was one of those things I thought I could do better. Bought some fresh picked Iowa Sweet corn, some McCormicks mayo with lime, Cotija cheese, and ground chile de arbol. As per another post, I soaked the corn for a couple hours and grilled it in the husk for about 30 minutes turning often. Hit it with the butter, brushed on the mayo, sprinkled the chili and cheese(liberally),
                    and WOW. There were six of us and all agreed it was the best corn they ever had. Probably a combo of quality of corn, the cooking method, and the stuff on it. If you haven't tried this, do so.

                  4. Yep, Cojita! But I guess I'm 24 day too late!


                    5 Replies
                      1. re: rworange

                        And speaking of late... in my neighborhood (Rogers Park in Chicago) the eloteros use both mayo *and* margarine, from a squeeze bottle. Then the usual cheese and chili.
                        Anywhere else?

                        1. re: Sassafras

                          Yup! They use both often here in L.A., I perfer the straight mayo, cheese and chile powder tho...


                          1. re: Sassafras

                            HA-it's Midwestern elotes!

                            I grew up in Minnesota and we put butter on nearly everything. I still do, as a create of habit. Squeeze bottle margerine is my guilty pleasure.

                            1. re: erikka

                              Ah, squeeze margarine. My ChowSpouse handed me my first elote 10 years ago (he was then a ChowFriend) and if I'd seen how they put it together (my back was turned) I might not have tried it. And man, I woulda missed out on a decade of bliss.

                              The holy grail of elotes, I hear, comes from an elotera on the South Side who uses real butter and carries a habachi lashed to her cart. She grills the corn, then adds the works. Still haven't found her.

                      2. This is a reply to diningdiva re: Chapala Crema de la Casa. (there was no reply button on your post)

                        It is manufactured by Cacique, City of Industry.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: toodie jane

                          Thanks. We have a terrific new, and very large, Mexican market that just opened down here last month. They've got crema in just about every format you can imagine from bulk at the butcher counter to the standard white jars. Plus, they've got a pretty wide selection of the Cacique brand. I didn't see Chapala Crema de la Casa there, and I did look, but it may show up eventually.