February 16, 2007 12:45 PM | By Adam Roberts | 10 Comments

Great Flan & Corn Fungus at Chiles & Chocolate


I've never been a big fan of flan. For starters, the word "flan" seems to fuse together two words that don't exactly whet the appetite: flacid and wan. And then there are memories of bad flan in Spanish class in high school. We all had to bring in a dish (Jessica Aronowitz and I made guacamole) and someone brought in flan, which I remember as a gelatinous blob that tasted like chemicals and milk. I think the person who brought it in made it from some kind of box the way you make Jell-O from a box. If I were the teacher, I'd have suspended him.

Luckily, my flan phobia has been remedied by the flan you see above. I joined food writer Dana Bowen at Chiles & Chocolate in Park Slope on Tuesday. The space is wonderfully eclectic and authentic, a paean to the Oaxacan culture that the restaurant pays tribute to. We were tended to by a jovial host/hostesss/waitress/coffee-maker who engaged us at every turn about the food we were eating. Dana (pronounced Dah-na, like banana) had been there once before and steered me through the menu. I thought she was steering like a crazy person when she suggested we share a corn fungus quesadilla. Or, more precisely, a "Huitlacoche" quesadilla.

"Corn fungus?" I protested. "Like...real fungus?"

"It's really earthy and strange," promised Dana. "You'll love it."

So here it is:


What looks like black beans on the inside is actually the Huitlacoche. Like Dana said, it has a muted, earthy flavor--subtle and strange and not like anything you've ever had.

"The French have truffles," said our waitress. "And the Mexicans have huitalacoche."

My chicken mole entree was a bit disappointing. Dana had the "mole negro" (which I ordered) a few nights earlier and she was convinced that the mole on my plate wasn't the mole negro because it was so red. We asked the waitress and she said it was the mole negro so we ultimately believed her, though we both agreed the mole was a bit lackluster and had a bitter aftertaste. (Dana had tamales which she liked.)

The best part of the whole meal, though, was the flan you see at the top. It was fantastic: creamy, rich, sweet but not cloying. Enough to make a flan convert out of anyone, especially me.

"This is the best flan I've ever had," I told Dana.

"Isn't it great?"

A final bite remained on the plate and I offered it to Dana. She said "No thanks, it's so rich" so I scarfed it down. And with that final bite I retired my Soul Man status and accepted my new role as Flan Man. I am a man who likes flan.


Now you can move to different flavors such as chocolate or dulce de leche flan...mmmm...both great! Sometimes I mix both cream & milk for the classic one and turns out grat too.It's so easy to make at home!

I don't care if it shames my ancestors (or how often my grandmother tells me I'm shaming my ancestors), I cannot eat huitlacoche. Blech. No, thanks.

You can make good flan from a box. As with all things, it takes some practice.

I luuurv flan, but I think the texture throws a lot of people off. How about this one with a little crunch?


1/2 C. brown sugar
4 eggs
1 10 1/2 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. water
1 C. slivered almonds, chopped


Combine sugar and water in saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar caramelizes. Put mixture in cake pan and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Blend remaining ingredients at high speed for 20 seconds. Pour over caramelized sugar. Cover pan and place into larger pan containing enough hot water to cover 2 inches up outside of smaller pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove small pan from water and allow to cool uncovered for 45 minutes. Place serving dish upside down on pan and quickly flip over. Shake gently to loosen custard.

From recipe4living.com

Oh, I love huitlacoche! It's rare to find a Mexican restaurant that serves this wonderful green. La Palapa used to have a huitlacoche quesadilla but they took it off the menu because nobody ordered it. When I found out I was upset and they were so thrilled that I actually loved this green that they sent me a drink on the house. (The owner is from Mexico and really tries to bring the flavors that she remembers from her life there into her restaurant). Well,if I can ever make it to Brooklyn I will give this Park Slope restaurant a try so that I can enjoy huitlacoche again!

You should try the Crème Brûlée recipe from "Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten. It's easy to make and YOU WILL LOVE IT!

I grew up surrounded by cornfields and cannot FATHOM eating any of the nasty growths that I saw on some of those stalks. No way, no how.

Flan, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. I'll eat that all day. Or until I pass out from a sugar induced coma, whichever comes first.

I love huitlacoche! You can buy it canned at Mexican markets. My Mexican aunt and uncle first introduced me to it when I was visiting them in Cuernavaca. Corn fungus doesn't sound so appetizing, does it? Well how about corn truffles? Same thing. It's just a mushroom that grows on corn. Absolutely delicious, especially with scrambled eggs.

Corn fungus was deftly covered by the fantastic "Steve, Don't Eat It!" series a couple of years ago. Enjoy!


Heh. I was just about to link to The Sneeze, but Steve Ate It beat me to it.

FWIW, the usual English term for what Mexicans call huitlacoche is "corn smut." Mmm, smut!

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