—Photos: VERDEL BISHOP

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CORN SOUP

Carnival is for...

By Verdel Bishop

After a good Carnival fete, virtually every Trini knows there is nothing better to revive a feter's body like a good, hot cup of corn soup. The Express continues its Carnival street food series with the spotlight on corn soup. Take your pick—roasted, boiled (corn on the cob) or in soups, corn is usually king around this time of year—its popularity has made it a famous street food. Sure to be found at almost every fete venue and roadside liming spot, corn soup has earned its status as a favourite among limers.

Recently, the Express caught up with Iphil Aaron, a popular roadside corn soup vendor whose services are contracted by some of the biggest fetes and events in the country. As the Carnival season heats up, his corn-soup-making skills are in high demand. Iphil operates his corn soup business on Queen Street in Arima, one of the busiest streets in the borough, and also at the Maloney Mall in D'Abadie. These days, he is hard at work to meet the demands of his wide spectrum of clients.

"Carnival is my busiest time of year. I operate my business from two locations and I'm also at various fetes and functions. It's something I've been doing for over 20 years; I've seen how people enjoy a cup of soup after a fete or liming on evenings. You can't go wrong with a cup of corn soup."

Iphil started his trade from humble beginnings, going door to door with his corn soup. As his clients grew, so has his name— today, large companies virtually have his number on speed dial as his soup is requested for nearly every occasion.

When corn is scarce, Iphil searches far and wide for the best corn for his pot. Corn is plentiful around the months of June to around October although some farmers believe corn production for harvest during the Carnival season requires that the crop is planted late in the rainy season and grows during the dry season. This country's requirements are met mainly through imports. Each year, scarce crops are a headache for Iphil.

"I am never in a position where I have no corn at all. But sourcing corn is difficult. When corn is scarce, I have contacts for various farmers I can source corn from; sometimes, I go as far as South for corn. Corn doesn't have a long lifespan. That's why sometimes when you buy corn, its dry. There is a lot of starch in fresh corn, which is better to use," Iphil says.

Looking back at his humble beginnings, Iphil knows he came from far. He started with almost no financial support.

"My mother was a great cook and she was very popular. I did food and nutrition and I had ideas of getting into cooking, but I had no financial backing. I had an idea to sell boil corn because I used to hang around a lady who used to sell boil corn.

"It's so ironic because I bounced up that same lady in the market one day while I was getting corn for my boil corn business, and she told me I should start with the corn soup. I went straight ahead with corn soup from that day and I never stopped," Iphil said.

How to make Corn soup Ingredients: • 1 dozen ears of corn, with 6 ears chopped into two-inch pieces and the kernels shaved off 6 ears • 1 onion chopped small • 2 cloves of garlic minced • 2 carrots chopped small • 2 stalks of celery chopped small, including leaves • 1 bunch of parsley and 1 bunch of chives chopped • 2 chadon beni leaves chopped small • ½ cup cornmeal • ½ teaspoon baking powder, salt • 2 tablespoons milk • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour • 2 teaspoons soft butter, margarine • 1 egg beaten • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock • ½ cup split-pea powder • 1 tablespoon corn starch • 2 tablespoons of water • 2 tablespoons of oil for frying • 1 hot pepper seeded and minced (optional) • extra salt to taste Method: In a large pot, heat oil and cook onion and garlic until onion is clear. Add carrots, celery, half-cup cornmeal, two tablespoons all-purpose flour, half-teaspoon baking powder, half-teaspoon salt, one egg, two tablespoons milk—add more if needed, two teaspoons soft butter or margarine and chives, and cook for one minute, stirring. Add chicken broth and corn and bring to a boil. Mix together the cornstarch and two tablespoons water and add to soup. Stir in split-pea powder. Add hot pepper. Stir and reduce heat to simmer for one hour. Add parsley and chadon beni 15 minutes before serving. Remove from heat. Light cornmeal dumplings Add to corn soup during cooking Method: In a bowl, blend cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat egg with milk and butter and combine with dry ingredients. Drop by serving spoonfuls onto cooking vegetables, bean dishes or soup. Cover tightly and cook 15 minutes over low heat. Serve hot.

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