Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Jicama, Jicaletas and Yam Bean, Oh My!

While I was on my Trump Apology Tour of Mexico, in between apologizing, I became an unapologetic culinary observer. All it took was one working eye to observe that Mexico is the land of the jicama. These mighty, pre-Columbian tubers were in full regalia on every calle and corner from Mexico City to Puebla and Cholula. Also known as Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip, this tuberous root is from a vine that’s a member of the bean family. Not only is it a good source of vitamin C and high in fiber, it's good photo fodder, too.

The most ubiquitous jicama sightings were on street vendors' carts paired with papaya, melon, mango, orange or cucumber. It’s the perfect complement to fresh fruit with its crisp bite and striking color contrast. It also appeared either cubed, sliced or grated in buffet offerings, acting as a quiet compadre to all the alpha meats, manly moles and sassy salsas. You could see whole jicamas piled high in every market, from the small mom and padres to the large supermercados. In fact, there were so many tubers to go around, Trump could build the wall out of jicama and Mexicans wouldn’t even know they paid for it.

Jicaletas y paletas

Just when I thought I'd seen it all, I eyed the jicaleta. This modern-day street-food phenomenon of sliced jicama on a stick is an homage to the popular Mexican ice cream bar, the paleta. Hence the name: jicaleta (jicama + paleta). The moniker may sound cute, like designer jicama for the youthful YouTuber market, but these tuberous treats seem to appeal to every jicama-eating demographic. But if you think a piece of naked jicama doing a pole dance on a stick of raw wood is sexy, you should see what comes next: the colorful rub-down in a tsunami of umami.

First, a thick slice of jicama on a stick is brushed with chamoy syrup (the red goop on the right) that's either a sticky liquid or paste consistency. It's made from pickled fruit that’s salty, sweet, sour and spiced with chiles. The jicama is then rolled in either taj√≠ne (a seasoning powder from chiles, salt and lime juice) or a sugary powder that comes in different colors and flavors that adheres to the chamoy. While I never tried a jicaleta (artificial colors and flavors aren't how I roll) or got a photo of one in its final glam-shot glory, you can see what they look like in the short video below and some wilder designs here.

I'm already planning my next Mexico trip to do more apologizing—mostly to myself for not trying a jicaleta. And while I’m there, I might as well hit the Trump apology trail again. I barely scratched the surface. In fact, I better start planning my world tour.

Related Links:
My Trump Apology Tour of Mexico
My Trump at the Table eCookbook 
Street Snacks, Mexico City
East LA Meets Napa and a Love Letter to Mexico


  1. "Manly moles", "sassy salsas", "Trump could build the wall out of jicama", "a tsunami of umami" (my fave) - Chica, you have an awesome way with words, in two languages no less. And I'm with you on the No Gracias on Jicamade, i.e., jicama covered in likamade.

  2. Salty, sweet, sour, chile. I want to try this right now! Maybe with four different colors. Ole!