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Mais

Multicolored Corn from the Philippines

Photo by Mildred Cruz of corn from the province of Pangasinan.

The Tagalog word for ‘corn’ is mais, from the Spanish maiz.

More than popcorn, the best way Filipinos enjoy corn is nilaga (plain boiled) optionally slathered with butter, or as ginataang mais (sweetly stewed in coconut milk), or as mais con yelo (with ice).

For centuries, the most popular variety of corn in the Philippine has been the white one, as seen in the photo below.

Nilagang Mais (Boiled Corn)

Nilagang Puting Mais (Boiled White Corn) by John Braza.

Only in recent decades has longer yellow sweet corn (Zea mays var. saccharata / rugosa) become so widely used that it’s even added in stews like bulalo and nilaga. Crazy then, normal now. This may be related to the fact that more than 10% of the Philippine citizenry are now living overseas, where the slender and brighter variety is overabundantly available.

Many food trends originating from overseas have superseded local traditions. It should also be noted that the corn plant is not native to the Philippines. It likely arrived via Spanish galleons from Mexico centuries ago, though the locally more common white variety resembles in color what’s called Chinese maize or waxy corn.

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