I first learned about this snack when volunteering with The Sage Garden Project, which runs a summer camp designed to introduce elementary school kids (especially those at risk for developing diabetes) to cooking, gardening, and nutritional sciences. It uses the popular Latin American root vegetable, jícama, as a canvas for the exciting flavors of lime, cilantro, and Tajín, a Mexican spice blend. The cool, crisp jícama makes for a great summertime snack!
Not only is this recipe delicious, it is also very easy to make. Just follow these seven steps:
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
To make this dish, begin by gathering the following ingredients:
- 1 large jícama root
- 2 medium limes
- 1 tablespoon of Tajín seasoning
- 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro leaves
- Sea Salt to taste
The first time I made this recipe on my own, I discovered that buying the ingredients was actually the most difficult step! While the limes, fresh cilantro, and sea salt should be available at any local store, jícama root and Tajín can sometimes be difficult to find. Thankfully, both are being coming increasingly popular in the United States.
Tajín is a popular Mexican spice that is used to flavor many kinds of food and drink. It is made of chili peppers, lime, and salt. A couple of years ago, I was only ever able to find it in my local international food store. Now, they carry it at Kroger. If you have trouble finding Tajín, visit an international grocery store or visit your local Mexican or Latin American grocer. If you can’t find it, cayenne pepper can be used as a substitute.
Jícama (pronounced hee-ca-ma) is a watery, Latin American root vegetable, sometimes called “Mexican turnip” or “Mexican yam.” Though it originated in Latin America, it has been spread to Asia, where it is popular in many dishes. Like Tajín, jícama can sometimes be difficult to find in the store. If you have trouble finding it where you normally shop, check the produce section of an international or Latin American grocery store.
Like most produce, there is a little bit of strategy to selecting jícama roots. Look for small to medium roots that feel dense when lifted. The skin should be smooth, shiny, and unbruised. Don’t choose jícama roots that feel soft; the best part of eating jícama is the crisp, apple-like texture.
Step 2: Peel the Jícama
Before cutting the jícama, it is important to thoroughly wash and peel it. All parts of the jícama plant (except for the root flesh) are poisonous. This includes the skin of the jícama root.
Some stores sell jícama with the fibrous roots and step still attached. Begin by using a knife and cutting board to remove the top and bottom of the jícama. This will make the root easier to handle. Next, wash the jícama with cool water. Rinse and use a sponge or brush to get rid of dirt on the skin. Then, begin peeling the root. Use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to carefully remove the thick skin. Be careful not to cut yourself!
Before going on to the next step, double check that all of the skin has been removed. Remember, it is poisonous!
Step 3: Cut the Jícama
There are many ways to serve jícama, but I recommend slicing it into sticks. This shape will make it a convenient finger food that you can easily share with friends.
Begin by placing the Jícama on a cutting board. With a properly sharpened knife, cut the root in half from top to bottom. Place each half with the flat side down on the cutting board. Next, cut each half into ½ inch slices. Then, lay the slices flat and cut them into ½ inch thick sticks.
Step 4: Juice the Limes
Everyone has their own method for getting the most juice out of a lime. If you don’t have a citrus press or a citrus reamer, it is still possible to get a lot of juice out of a small lime.
First, be sure that your limes are at room temperature. Warm limes are less stiff and therefore easier to juice. Next, roll your lime against the kitchen counter, or any hard surface, until you feel the lime losing its shape and softening up. This pops the pulp inside the lime and makes it much easier to extract the juice. Finally, cut the lime lengthwise and squeeze it into a bowl.
Step 5: Toss the Jícama With the Lime
There really is no trick to doing this. Place the cut jícama and lime juice into a bowl large enough for them both. Use a spoon or your washed and cleaned hands to coat the jícama in the lime juice. Then, let the jícama sit in the juice for five or ten minutes to soak up the flavor.
Step 6: Season the Jícama
Now is the time to season the jícama with the rest of your ingredients. Begin by arranging the jícama on a serving platter (the fancier the better).
Next, sprinkle the Tajín over the jícama. It should stick to the roots because of the lime juice. The amount of Tajín to use is completely a matter of personal preference. If you are unsure about what the preferences of your guests may be, I’d recommend a gradient of flavor, with some jícama receiving a light dusting of Tajín and others more. Another strategy is to use just a small amount of Tajín and leave the bottle out for people to use if they want more.
After the Tajín comes the sea salt. Depending on how much Tajín you used above, you may not to use much. A sprinkle of sea salt over the jícama really brings out the flavor.
Chop about a 1/3 cup of fresh cilantro and sprinkle it over the jícama. Again, be aware of people’s preferences. Some people strongly dislike cilantro. Leave it out, if need be.
Please note that the above steps are very objective. Any of the seasonings are optional. You can even experiment and add more if you so desire!
Step 7: Enjoy!
The easiest step by far! Enjoy this dish outside with a cold drink, chips and salsa, and some spicy pickled carrots from the local taqueria.