Elote al Julio Valdez, Salinas
Thursday evening I stopped by Sr. Valdez’s tamale/hot dog/elote cart on the corner of East Market and Ivy streets on the eastside of town. This was my first visit in a few months and I hoped he might have seasonal elote, corn on the cob served in the Mexican style, a classic food of the streets. Bingo!
The long ear pulled from the steamer compartment looked like it been boiled or steamed rather than grilled. After impaling it with a wooden skewer handle, he gave it the faintest film of mayonesa, just enough to make the grated cotija cheese stick to the kernels. I nodded when he asked if I wanted chili, and gave it a good dusting with his chili powder spice blend. I stopped him from wrapping it up in foil saying I’d eat it there. He pulled out a small bench for me to sit.
This baby was heavy, making the skewer flex when I tried to pick it up and I needed two hands to support the ear of corn. This got a chuckle from Mr. Valdez, who said, “it’s too big for you!” Made with yellow corn, this tasted more like corn and less like sugar. While I would have preferred a grilled version, this was a delicious first corn of the summer season.
Image of elote -
Cali, Colombia, is a cosmopolitan city of a couple of million people. Maisorcas (corn on the cob) are sold on the streets at particular points and by several vendors at each locale, with each having no more than a charcoal grill, fan, and their maiz. The vendors are located along traditional and respected points--next to the stature of Balacazar and along the park of the aqueducto--both within a couple of hundred meters from my place--for example. Most, if not all, of the vendors are Afro-Colombianos. The city and the people treasure them and their maisorcas. The Valdez elotes are of the same tradition and spirit.
Tonight I had the chance to follow up with Sr. Valdez to see if he makes uchepos (aka tamales de elote) during corn season. "Sure do", he said, when I asked such an obvious question of an elote and tamale vendor. And they're good, a buck apiece, with soft masa that's slightly salty to set-off the sweetness of the fresh corn kernels so well.
I stopped by Sr. Valdez's cart on Monday to get a champurrado and drop off a copy of Chow's tour of truck food in Salinas. He told me he doesn't have a computer but that he's had new customers recently who say they who saw him on the internet.
The two guys ahead of me bought 10 hot dogs. A long wait, for sure, but I don't mind sharing this find.
P.S. He's taking a little vacation and will not be working tonight or tomorrow. Maybe taking Friday off too.
Too early in the year for elotes (corn), but champurrado is available all year-round. When I stopped by this week for the hot corn drink, I was pleased to see that the hot dog/tamale cart had a fresh coat of paint. A "no smoking" sign has also been posted, right over the condiment shelf, as part of the voluntary smoke-free entryways program.
Valdez Hot Dogs
East Market St and Ivy St, Salinas, CA