This jicama citrus salad from the Yucatan is known as “Xec” or “Xe’ec”, which comes from the Mayan word for “ensalada” (salad). It is also known by other names, like “check” and “sheck”. It is a healthy, quick, and easy to prepare dish, and is a classic side dish during the Day of the Dead. This citrus salad is also sold by street vendors and in local markets, when the fruit is in season. In Mexico, jicama is in season from November to January. One of the ingredients used in Yucatan is the Bitter Seville orange, which is really hard to find here in the USA. I usually substitute it with a mix of orange and grape fruit, with a little squirt of lime juice.
For 4 years during my time living in the south of Mexico, I lived in a small house that I shared with another two school teachers that where from Merida, Yucatan. They used to go to the city of Merida every two weeks to visit their families. We were all in our early twenties, and missing our home cooked meals. Every time they went to Merida they would come back carrying care packages full of appetizing food their mothers had prepared for them to enjoy during the week. Some of the things they would also bring where the seasonings that are so unique to the Yucatan cuisine. They were in charge of cooking during the weekdays, since I worked far away from the city, so when I got back from work the food was already made. The result was that I spent all those years eating meals prepared by my roommates from Yucatan, and some days I miss that food from my time as a teacher.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
- 1 medium size jicama (About 1 pound)
- 4 small oranges or (3 medium)
- 3 mandarins
- 1 lime
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup grapefruit juice
- 1 teaspoon ground Piquin pepper*
- 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- Salt, to season
- You can use any powdered pepper, like cayenne pepper powder, to spice up the salad. I’ve seen people in Yucatan even add chopped habanero peppers to this salad. One teaspoon of ground pepper will not render a very spicy salad for the amount of fruit used in the recipe, so adjust the spiciness to your own personal taste. I like to add a little bit more of the pepper to my serving.
- If you don’t find fresh mandarins, you can use the ones sold packaged in their own juice in small containers.
- Other additions to this salad include grapefruit pieces and chopped cucumber.
1. Peel the jicama using a paring knife or by pulling the skins off and placing the knife on the top part of the jicama and pulling down the skins. Remove any excess skin with a potato peeler. Dice the jicama into small bite sizes, place in a large bowl, and squeeze half of the lime juice over it to prevent browning and add flavor. Set aside.
2. Peel the oranges, slice them, and then cut the slices in four. Add them to the jicama.
1. Peel mandarins with your hands, separate in segments. To remove the seeds, cut along the edge of the side column of the segment, as shown on the picture. Once you cut it, the seeds will come out easily. Place all your deseeded mandarin segments in the bowl with the rest of the fruit.
2. Now, in a smaller bowl, mix orange juice, grapefruit juice, the rest of the lime juice, ground pepper, cilantro, and salt. Mix well and pour over fruit. Gently stir everything. You can refrigerate this salad for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend, or you can eat it immediately.