corn meal vs. semolina vs. masa harina
What differentiates one from the other (and when to use which one and why?)
In a nut shell.........
Corn meal....finely ground corn...Uses are numerous...Corn bread, coating on fried fish etc....Why? Because it taste good!
Semolina is Wheat (not corn) used to make pasta..
Masa harina (dough flour)... field corn (not sweet) is dried and then treated/soaked in a solution of lime and water.This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. The soaked corn is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough, called masa. It is this fresh masa (dough), when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina (dough flour)....
Used in making Tortillas, Hot tamales etc, etc.. Why? It gives the products made from it a characteristic flavor...HTH
re: Uncle Bob
You have such an encyclopedic wealth of knowledge, Uncle Bob, and as usual, well said.
Can I ask you this, since I don't know enough Spanish to ask my Guatamalan housekeeper and make any sense, why do some recipes call for a different kind of masa harina for making tamales or tortillas? Specifically I'm referring to the fine cooking article in this past Holiday's mag, I would post a link for you if I could remember my da*#@! password!!
re: Uncle Bob
Some sources confuse semolina and farina (cream of wheat). Farina is from a softer wheat.
Semolina comes in various grinds. A finer one intended for pasta, a coarser one can be made into a polenta like porridge.
Note also that corn meal can have various grinds. And overlaps with polenta (Italian corn meal), and grits.
To confuse things more there's a cooked corn flour used to make corn cakes (arepas) in Columbia and Venezuela
Oh, I love arepas also!! But I guess I've never had an authentic one since that Gourmet recipe I used once did call for white arepas flour, which my poor housekeeper searched all of East LA for & couldn't find so we used masa harina instead. Good thing was the guests of the party were none the wiser and inhaled the carnitas w/pickled red onions on False Arepas anyway!!