Jicama with Sweet Chili Salt
It always catches me off guard when I find myself addicted to something healthy. Lets just be honest with one another, shall we? Given the choice between eating an apple and eating an apple fritter, I don’t know about you, but I pick the fried dough. I have a penchant for encased meat and all things pickled or cured. I consider cheese to be its own food group. That said, when I find myself craving and keening for a snack with less than 100 calories per bite, I never quite believe it at firsr. I’m almost afraid to ‘indulge’, just in case my palate changes it’s mind and thinks, “Uh, actually, I would like this better with a side of butter.” That’s why it is staggering to me that my new favorite snack is….a vegetable.
Well, not just any vegetable. I mean, I’m not sucking up to brussel sprouts or anything. It is the jicama whom I adore.
The first time that I had the simple but striking snack of jicama with lime and chili salt, we were at one of Rick Bayless’ restaurants in Chicago. On a snack platter with warm tortilla chips, deep fried quesadilla and taquitos, the jicama should have been an afterthought. Instead, it was the prettiest girl at the party and Mike and I ended up fighting over the last crisp and refreshing baton. After that experience, and ever since Rick Bayless and I became besties (note: we are not actually ‘besties’. In fact, I am fairly sure that Handsome Rick, as he is known in our house, would rather not be left alone in a room with me. But whatever. He once made the mistake of maintaining eye contact, which for me is tantamount to asking if we want to accompany his family on their next trans-Atlantic vacation. Ergo, ‘besties’ it is), I have had an addiction to jicama with chili and salt….and sugar, because god forbid that anything should be too healthy in this house.
Jicama with Sweet Chili Salt
Serves anywhere between 2-6
- 1 large jicama *
- 1 large lime
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1.5 tsp chipotle chili powder
* If you are used to ogling jicama in the grocery store but have never mustered up the courage to try it, you may be surprised when you do. From the look of the bulbous, tawny exterior you may be expecting something starchy and akin to a potato. However, get rid of that fibrous peel, and inside the jicama is watery, crisp and slightly sweet and green tasting. If I were to compare it to anything, I would say that the texture is closer to a water chestnut and the flavor is more like a large, very mild radish. When buying a jicama, look for a large and pale bulb which has no dark spots, soft areas or blemishes. As jicama ages it will start to get spotty and darker; the skin gets tougher and fibrous and the flesh gets a bit mealy and bitter. For this application, only use jicama which is at its freshest.
Combine the salt, sugar and chipotle chili powder in a small bowl and then whisk it until it is well mixed.
Peel the jicama and slice into 1/4″ matchsticks.
Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the jicama and serve with the sweet chili salt on the side for dipping.
The combination of sweet, salty and spicy is always delicious, especially when it livens up a docile and healthy vehicle like jicama. I should also warn you that once you get the taste for sweet chili salt, you never go back. I save the leftovers and sprinkle it on top of cubed mango, fresh or grilled pineapple, and just about anything else that I can get my hands on. Most of us have at least one friend who salts his or her granny smith apples, right? Well don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and while you’re at it….bring Apple Eater to the dark side by passing over a bowl of this instead.
Slice the other half of the lime into wedges and serve it on the side so that people can squeeze away to their heart’s content whilst snacking.
If you pull out a platter of jicama with sweet chili salt the next time you host people over to watch the game, I’m not going to lie to you and say that you will be as popular as the guy who lays out an all-you-can-eat meatball buffet. However, it is delicious, virtuous, and leaves more room in the belly for a nice cold Mexican beer!