Our drive down to Nasugbu was relatively quick and uneventful. Roadside stands in Laguna, Cavite and Batangas seemed to have an unusually large seasonal bounty of sweet corn. I wondered out loud how vendor after vendor could offer just boiled corn and nothing elseâ€¦ no roasted corn, no buttered corn, no corn chowder, no corn relish, pickled corn, soup, etc. No variation, innovation or value-added. There was nothing to distinguish one vendor from the next one just a few meters down the road. A sale was completely based on luck or serendipity — where travelers or tourists chose to stop to make their purchase. The same observation applies to Indian mango vendors along the same route, earlier in the summer. No one makes chutney, pickled mangoes, preserves, etc. which would expand their offerings, extend the life of the seasonal produce and hopefully improve profits. As I pondered this local penchant for the seasonal produce equivalent of squatting curbside while shooting the breeze with a neighbor, I passed the last stand selling cornâ€¦
But early the next morning, at the local market, the abundance of sweet corn was hard to ignore, and decided to buy several ears so that we could experiment with a corn soup later that day. Add to the market basket two kilos of alimasag or crab and about half a kilo of large suahe or white shrimp as well. This was my first attempt at making corn soup, and preferably a version without any cream or milk which would be more reminiscent of a corn chowderâ€¦ I decided to try making a soup completely from scratch despite the lack of recipe and previous experience. The resulting soup was an absolute â€œslam-dunkâ€ â€“ few experimental recipes this year turned out better… and all of this from locally available seasonal ingredients!
I didnâ€™t measure my ingredients too closely so you will have to taste as you go, adjust when you feel it is necessary. First, steam the crabs for 15 minutes or so (unless they are really large and need a few more minutes). Once the crabs have cooled, carefully remove all of the crabmeat. I had barely 2-2.5 cups worth of crabmeat when all was said and done. Keep the crab claws whole if you want a fancy plating garnish. Discard gills and other really mucky bits from the crabs, but donâ€™t discard all the shells. In a stock pot, add the shells, legs, and cartilage of the cleaned out crabs. Next peel the shrimp and put the heads and shells into the stock pot with the crab shells. Cover shells with water and place over medium heat until it boils, lower heat a bit and let your shellfish stock simmer for some 20 minutes or so. Turn the heat off and let this broth cool slightly, then strain once or twice. You should have some 5-6 cups of stock.
Next, shuck 8 ears of corn and remove the corn silk or â€œhairâ€. With a knife, slice down the side of the cob, removing the corn kernels. Donâ€™t worry if you only get say 2/3 of a kernel and not whole kernels like those in a can. Set the sliced corn aside. In another stockpot, add the 8 cobs (now stripped of kernels), cover with water and simmer for some 20 minutes or so. Strain this liquid and you should have approximately 8 cups or so of corn stock.
In a heavy enameled or stainless pot, add 3-4 tablespoons of butter and turn the heat to medium, add one finely chopped onion and stir until the onion is translucent. Add 1-2 large peeled and chopped tomatoes and sweat this for a minute or two. Next add some 4 cups or so of shellfish stock and simmer for a few minutes. Add 6 cups of corn stock and simmer for a few minutes. Add salt to taste, err on less rather than more, you can adjust seasoning later. Taste the stockâ€¦ it should be tasty but not incredibly concentrated like a stock from a cube.
Of the sliced corn kernels, I put half into a food processor to blitz until mashed/smoothish. Add this to the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Then add the whole kernels of corn and cook a little more. Add the peeled and sliced shrimp and a minute later, the peeled crab meat and season with white pepper and salt if necessary. Simmer until it reaches a consistency you like. The starch from the corn thickens the soup slightly. Add some chopped green onions for color. And when everything is cooked, serve piping hot in generously sized bowls. This soup was really, really good. And it had no cream whatsoever, but still tasted a bit creamy. It is perhaps best described as a rustic or hearty preparation. Some corn soups are so refined and strained that they are very smooth, without a hint of corn kernels. This soup was chunky and you knew it had fresh corn in it. The shrimp, crab meat and other ingredients were abundant. The flavors all seemed to work well together. Everyone who tasted the soup that night had seconds, and a large pot was completely wiped out. Definitely a keeper of a recipe. We also discussed at the table what might make the soup even better and everyone seemed to agree that some crisp fried pancetta or prosciutto sprinkled on top would definitely take this a step higher. A little chopped chili might also work additional wonders… :)