Jicama, I Hardly Knew Her!
I can eat jicama all day long like its nothing. Perhaps literally, because it IS like nothing. Slightly sweet and crunchy nothing that leaves a powdery dried finish on your lips as they dry. Jicama is really nothing more than a carrier for things like lemon and chili I thought, until today, when I had to find a use for the one that I had slowly declining in my crisper.
Rather than do things like a normal cook would, I instead turned to my old friend, Wikipedia for help on what to do with this crunchy chunk of nothingness. Not only did I learn the history of the cultivation of jicama (thank you Spain!) and that the only part that isn’t poisonous is the bulbous root (thank you defense mechanisms!) but virtually nobody does anything thrilling with jicama. Except Indonesia. They have jicama recipes nailed down flat with the national specialty of rojak.
Rojak is a sweet and spicy fruit salad that’s common to not only Indonesia but also Malaysia and Singapore. The salad is really nothing more than a hodgepodge of whatever the cook has on hand unified by the spicy sweet sauce. There are potentially dozens of variations on this spicy fruit salad theme including everything from fried tofu to cow’s lips in addition to the fruit and dressing, but the key component is the sweet airiness known as jicama.
Despite being a simple fruit salad, there’s a surprising amount of ingredients that go in to making the signature dressing, not all of them vegetarian. Most rojak includes shrimp paste in it, but with a few modifications I’ve made mine completely vegetarian. Also, this recipe is very flexible in regards to quantities, so note that I am using the “part” system rather than exact quantities. I also did not use fresh pineapple or tamarind paste (both of which are common in rojak), but the taste is still pretty spot on.
Enjoy your jicama!
-1 part jicama
-1 part cucumber
-1 part red bell pepper
-1 part granny smith apple
–2 or 3 parts lemon juice
-1 part sugar
-1 part Siracha or hot chili paste
-1 part soy sauce
-2 parts chopped peanuts
1. Peel the jicama and slice it into thin slices or matchsticks.
2. Peel and seed the cucumber, also slice it thin or into matchsticks.
3. Repeat with the apple and red bell pepper, but the decision to peel them is up to you. (I left the skin on the apple for color.) Put everything into a large bowl.
4. In a smaller bowl, toss all the dressing ingredients together, it should be VERY thin. As a note, start with two parts lemon juice rather than three. It thins the dressing as well as adds flavor. If the dressing is too acidic, add a splash more soy and a pinch of sugar.
5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.
6. Serve immediately or store covered in the refrigerator