The salad stopped Michael Beard’s fork right in its tracks.
Munching through a meal at a tiny taqueria, the chef couldn’t get over the cooling, milky white strips accentuating each crunchy bite.
“I’m pretty sure it was in Tulsa — just like a little taco stand, taqueria-type of deal — they had a jicama salad there,” says Beard, now head chef at 715, of his first jicama experience. “I actually had to ask what that was. It was really nice and refreshing.”
Chances are, though, that when he hit the grocery store to buy jicama (pronounced “hick-a-ma”) for his own at-home experimentation, he might have had a hard time recognizing it.
That’s because jicama might be the best example in the produce world of a “don’t judge a book by its cover” scenario. On the plate, it is often cut into strips, its white flesh crisp and full of snap and light. But at the market, the dust-brown Central American tuber could be mistaken for a potato that’s been genetically engineered to be smooth, round and massive.
Perhaps you’ve walked right past it, too, but Beard says that if you continue to go on without trying it, you’re missing out on an ingredient that truly shines as the mercury ticks upward.
“I think it’s really refreshing as far as it provides a nice crunch and texture on salads,” Beard says. “I kind of julienne it up a little bit and then throw it in with some carrots like that, usually with just a really simple lime vinaigrette on there. I either eat that like that or I’ll make that a little salad and put it on tacos. It’s really good, I think, on fish tacos — that textural aspect brings a nice aspect to the taco.”
No surprise then that when Lawrence’s newest taco purveyor, Esquina, opened in February, jicama made an appearance in both a taco-topping salsa and the restaurant’s house salad. Simon Bates, co-owner and chef at Esquina, says the tuber’s texture and knack for sopping up strong flavors made it a must for the restaurant’s menu.
“The flavor isn’t very strong, it’s like tofu in the sense that it kind of adapts to whatever you put it with,” Bates says. “Like we have a jicama-mango salsa and it really just kind of soaks up the flavor of that mango.”
The hardest part of getting started? Identifying it in the grocery store, of course — for reference, it’s usually not kept near the potatoes or the water chestnuts, even though two of its various nicknames are the “Mexican potato” and “Mexican water chestnut.” From there, all you have to do is survive peeling it and you’ve got the instant ability to add crunch wherever you like.
“It’s hard to peel a little, bit but it’s easy to cut,” Bates says. “It’s one of the freshest textures you can get ... you bite into it and it’s just watery, crisp, cold. It kind of snaps when you bite into it. I love it.”
1 medium jicama, peeled and julienned or cut into strips
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1 avocado, diced
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into half-circles
1 medium seedless cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, parsley or mint
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve as is or on a bed of greens.
— Recipe from “The Chicago Diner Cookbook” by Jo A. Kaucher
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup dry red wine or apple juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange juice
3 large oranges, peeled, sectioned
2 red grapefruit, peeled, sectioned
1 medium jicama, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 1/2 pounds)
In tightly covered container, shake oil, wine, honey and orange juice until well-blended. On individual salad plates, arrange oranges, grapefruit and jicama (or mix in large bowl). Serve with dressing.
— Recipe from bettycrocker.com
Spicy Thai Jicama Salad
1 medium jicama, finely shredded
1 medium granny smith apple, finely shredded
1/2 medium red onion, finely sliced
4 brussels sprouts, trimmed, cut in half, and finely shredded
1 small jalapeno, shaved slices (optional if you can't handle the heat)
1/2 cup, packed, cilantro, roughly chopped
juice from 3 limes
2 tablespoons garlic chili sauce (or 1 1/2 tbsp sambal + 1/2 tbsp minced garlic)
1 tablespoon chinese hot mustard (can subsititute dijon)
1 tablespoon ginger, put through a garlic press
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
4 tablespoons asian peanut oil (actually tastes heavily of peanuts as opposed to the tasteless american stuff)
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
In a medium sized mixing bowl add the jicama, apple, onion, brussels sprouts, jalapeno, and cilantro. Squeeze the juice from one lime over the ingredients, then toss to coat. This will help prevent the apple from oxidizing and turning brown. In another mixing bowl add the garlic chili sauce, mustard, ginger, juice from the other two limes, and anchovy paste. Whisk to blend. Continuously whisk the ingredients while drizzling in the peanut oil to form an emulsified vinegarette. Pour the vinegarette over the jicama salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Salad is best served chilled (although good at room temperature as well). To make this a complete meal add a simply seasoned and seared thinly sliced chicken breast. Enjoy!
— Recipe from Amanda Simpson for whatwereeating.com
Chicken Stir-Fry with Jicama, Tomatillos and Red Peppers
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/4 cup Italian dressing
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup sliced jicama (about 1 medium)
1 cup quartered tomatillos
1 cup sliced red bell peppers (about 1 medium)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cups hot cooked rice
Place chicken in resealable plastic bag. Add dressing; seal bag. Turn bag over several times to evenly coat chicken with dressing. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour to marinate.
Cook bacon in large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Drain fat from skillet; set bacon aside. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Add chicken to same skillet; cook 4 minutes or until evenly browned, stirring frequently. Add jicama, tomatillos, red bell peppers and crushed red pepper; mix well. Cook 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
Serve over the rice.
— Recipe from kraftrecipes.com
BBQ Smoked Pork Chops with Jicama Mixed Salad
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, divided
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
6 smoked pork chops (2-1/2 pounds), 1/2 inch thick
1/2 small head cabbage, quartered
1 small jicama, cut into match-like sticks
4 carrots (1/2 pound), shredded
Heat grill to medium heat. Mix mayo, 1 tablespoon peppers and lime juice; set aside. Mix remaining peppers with barbecue sauce.
Brush chops with half the barbecue sauce mixture. Grill chops with cabbage 4 minutes or until heated through (160 degrees), turning chops and brushing with remaining barbecue sauce mixture after 2 minutes. Remove chops from grill; turn cabbage. Continue to grill cabbage 4 minutes.
Shred or thinly slice cabbage; place in large bowl. Add jicama, carrots and mayo mixture; toss to coat. Serve with the chops.
— Recipe from kraftrecipes.com