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Yam Bean

yam bean

Known also as sweet turnip as well as by its Mexican name, jicama (pronounced hee-kama), yam bean is a tuber native of tropical America as well as South-East Asia. The Asian variety of yam beans are disc-like with light brown skin and strongly marked segments.

Their pleasantly crunchy, white flesh is slightly sweet and juicy and can be eaten raw, like a fruit. As such, yam beans are part of my Indonesian Fruit Platter with Hot and Sweet Dipping Sauce. You'll find that recipe in my book Cooking with Kurma.

Cooked as a vegetable in stir-fried dishes, yam beans make a good substitute for bamboo shoots or especially water chestnuts whose texture is similar.

Although providing mainly carbohydrate, yam beans are very versatile: they are also widely used in Asia as an ingredient in the filling of spring rolls. In Thailand they are eaten raw in salads, or dipped in a hot salty dip flavoured with chili, and in Mexico yam beans are used as a fruit (see recipe below).

When purchasing yam beans, choose tubers of moderate size with smooth, fine skin, indicating that they are young and fresh. To prepare yam beans, peel away the skin and slice or dice as required. While their flavour is delicate, they take on other flavours cooked with them.

Stored in the crisper of your refrigerator the tubers will keep fresh for several weeks.

Obtain yam beans from Asian grocers or Latin American stores. Note the regional names for easy purchase:

China  - saa got
Indonesia and Malaysia - bangkwang
Philippines - singkamas
Vietnam    -  cu san

Finally here's a recipe for Yam Bean.

Mexican Chili & Lime Infused Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Appetizer
(Ensalada Pico de Gallo)

Pico de gallo literally means “beak of the rooster”. This central Mexican street food gets its name by being drenched in lots of sharp lime juice and hot red chili powder. The choice of fruits and vegetables varies according to season, although cucumbers are always included. Instead of the choice below, try orange segments, carrot sticks, chunks of unripe mangoes or quinces, wedges of crisp tart apples, or melon slices. Serves 6.

1 medium jicama (yam bean), peeled and sliced into sticks 3 inches by ½ inch, and chilled
1 medium-sized ripe pineapple peeled and cut into sticks 3 inches by ½ inch, and chilled
3 medium cucumbers peeled and sliced into sticks 3 inches by ½ inch, and chilled
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
salt to taste
1 tablespoon chili powder, or to taste

Place the jicama, pineapple and cucumber in separate bowls, drizzle with half of the lemon juice, then sprinkle with salt and half of the chosen amount of chili powder.

Alternately layer the fruits and vegetables in 6 large chilled glasses. Combine the rest of the lime juice and chili powder, trickle it into the glasses and serve immediately.

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