This grilled corn with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise recipe is my favourite grilled corn on the cob recipe, inspired by the traditional Cambodian grilled corn, poat dot, a Cambodian street food snack of barbecued corn on the cob with mayonnaise, lime and chilli, and the Mexican grilled corn on the cob street food dish. It makes a fantastic side to the dishes in our Cambodian barbecue series.
My grilled corn with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise recipe is not a traditional Cambodian dish. It’s a fusion dish of sorts, inspired by a few favourites of Cambodian food and Mexican street food: the popular street food snack in Cambodia of grilled corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, lime juice and chilli flakes; the more traditional Cambodian grilled corn, poat dot, which is brushed with a sauce of coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, and spring onions; and the Mexican grilled corn street food dish.
The recipe is next in Terence’s series on the best Cambodian barbecue recipes (which I’ve hijacked this week), which has so far included barbecue and grilling recipes for smoky grilled pork ribs, marinated beef skewers, grilled eggplant with minced pork, pork spare ribs with star anise, breakfast pork and rice, and beef and pork belly skewers.
While those barbecue recipes are all quite traditional and close to what you’ll find at street food stalls, simple neighbourhood eateries and in Cambodian homes, you’re highly unlikely to be served a lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise when you next rock up to a Cambodian street cart for barbecue corn. But who knows, maybe you will, Cambodian street food cooks are constantly innovating, even in small ways, to distinguish their offerings from the street food vendor down the road.
We’ll be including this grilled corn with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise recipe in the Cambodian street food cookbook we’re developing, while a recipe for the more traditional poat dot will appear in our epic first-of-its-kind Cambodian cookbook and culinary history that we’ve been researching, writing and photographing for the last six and half years. We’re still seeking patrons for that project on Patreon and you can support our work for as little as the price of a cob of corn on Phnom Penh’s streets per month.
Grilled Corn with Lime Butter and Lemongrass Mayonnaise Recipe
Soon after Cambodia’s corn harvests, corn is sold as a street food snack in various forms, both savoury and sweet. In Cambodian cities such as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang, the grilled corn on the cob sold from mobile street food carts in the late afternoon and evening has traditionally either been steamed and served solo or grilled and brushed with a sauce made with coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, and spring onions.
I have to confess that as much as I adore Cambodian food, this is one snack that has never got me excited, as the tangy sweet sauce of poat dot has increasingly been on the sweeter rather than tangier side as tastes change in Cambodia – unlike Mexico’s grilled corn on the cob (elote) which is savoury and has a kick of chilli. The Mexican grilled corn on the cob is smothered in creamy mayonnaise, chilli powder, lime juice, and cotija white cheese. Or, the corn kernels are scraped off into a takeaway cup and topped with mayo, lime juice, chilli flakes, and white cheese, which you then combine with a spoon.
We first discovered the Mexican street food snack on our first trip to Mexico in the early 90s when we backpacked right around the country, and we ate it at every opportunity. When we returned to Australia we’d replicate the dish and serve it up as an appetiser, before the tortilla soup, at Mexican themed dinner parties.
It came as a surprise years later when we began to travel more of the world and would see variations of grilled corn on the cob, also served with mayo, lime, chilli, and/or white cheese, in other countries – everywhere from Spain and Morocco to Greecen, Turkey and Thailand. We first came across it in Bangkok, and soon after in Phnom Penh.
It was in Phnom Penh late one night, when I was on a solo trip, that strolling back to my hotel after dinner, I stumbled across a handful of street food cooks selling grilled corn on the cob that was more similar to the Mexican street food specialty we’d first sampled some 25 years earlier than to the more traditional Cambodian grilled corn known as poat dot.
Aside from the white crumbly cheese that Mexican street food cooks sprinkle on their grilled corn on the cob, the Phnom Penh take tasted almost exactly the same, complete with mayonnaise (a remnant of French colonial times, so that made sense), and chilli flakes and lime quarters (ubiquitous condiments offered with almost every Cambodian street food dish, from kuy teav to nom banh chok).
The next day as I zipped across Cambodia’s capital in tuk tuks, from the hotel to the embassy to the bank and the mall and back again, I was obsessively on the lookout for more street food vendors selling this more globalised grilled corn on the cob. It wasn’t until the late afternoon that I spotted another handful of vendors scattered along the footpaths on a single city block – squeezed in between parked motorcycles and tuk tuk drivers who had slung their hammocks between trees – selling one of our all-time favourite street food snacks.
It took me right back to Mexico – and Spain, Morocco, Istanbul, and Bangkok – and inspired this fusion of Mexican and Cambodian grilled corn with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise recipe.
Notes on this Grilled Corn with Lime Butter and Lemongrass Mayonnaise Recipe
This grilled corn with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise recipe is super easy, so I have only a few tips for you. Try to grill your corn cobs over an open flame if you can. Since we’ve lived in Cambodia, Terence has grilled over a traditional clay brazier as most Cambodians do at home and on the streets, and he loves to use these coconut charcoal BBQ briquettes. Now that we have an extraction fan over the stove at our new apartment (and it’s been sweltering), he’s been using our stovetop Korean BBQ grill pan.
Today, however, as we’re in the early days of Cambodia’s monsoon season, I char-grilled my corn on the cob on our griddle pan on the stove. It was a good decision, because as we were shooting the pics above we could see slate-grey clouds rolling in and hear the rumbles of thunder.
Five minutes after we packed up, lightening was striking close by and it was raining sideways onto our kitchen windows. I was sponging up water leaks where I’d been prepping the lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise just 30 minutes earlier. If we lived elsewhere and had the space, we’d be using one of these outdoor barbecue or grills.
Everything in the recipe is pretty straight forward and ingredients should be readily available. The only challenging thing to find might be lemongrass powder. We buy our lemongrass powder and other ground herbs from Siem Reap’s Old Market, however, we are going to start making our own herb powders soon.
If you’d like to give it a go, finely chop some lemongrass stalks, spread the slices out on an oven tray covered with baking paper and bake on low heat until the lemongrass is dry and brittle. This could take around 60-90 minutes. Remove the tray and once the dried herbs have cooled down, grind the herbs to a powder in a mortar and pestle, spice mill, coffee grinder, or a blender. Store them in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.
Grilled Corn with Lime Butter and Lemongrass Mayonnaise Recipe
- 4 pieces corn cobs
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- 120 g butter
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 4 pieces lime
- 120 6 mayonnaise creamy egg mayo
- 1 tsp lemongrass powder see notes
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 handfull fresh coriander leaves
- 1 piece lime quartered
- Remove the outer husks of each corn cob, leaving just 3-4 inner husks on the cob, then carefully peel the remaining husks right back, taking care not to pull them entirely off the cob.
- Remove the silky threads from each cob by wiping them off with a damp paper towel.
- Soak the corn cobs with remaining husks in a pot of water for 15 minutes.
- Heat up your barbecue, griddle or grill pan and add a tablespoon of oil, just enough to cover the surface.
- Dry the corn cobs completely with a dry paper towel, then place the corn cobs beside each other on the barbecue, griddle or grill pan. Season the cobs generously with coarse salt.
- Grill the corn until its slightly charred, then turn all cobs to char-grill the next side, then once they’re a little charred turn the cobs again until the corn is char-grilled. It should take around 15 minutes. In between turning, make your lime butter and lemon mayonnaise.
- To make the lime butter, add the softened butter, juice of 1 lime, fish sauce, and chopped fresh coriander to a bowl and combine well, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are well combined. Scoop into a serving dish and return to the fridge so it doesn’t melt.
- To make the lemongrass mayonnaise, add the creamy mayonnaise and lemongrass powder to a bowl, combine well, add to a serving dish, and sprinkle more lemongrass powder (see notes) on top. Return to fridge to keep cool.
- Once your corn is char-grilled on all sides, place them on a serving plate or tray. Squeeze juice of one lime onto all cobs, and lightly sprinkle sesame seeds, dried chilli flakes and fresh coriander onto the cobs. Add additional lime quarters to the tray.
- Serve with the dishes of lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise.
Please do let us know if you make this grilled corn with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise recipe or any others in our best Cambodian barbecue recipes series. We’d love to know how they turn out for you.