One of my favorite word nerd activities is making up new words. Where would we all be without frexcitement, fouscous, opkeptical, and now: jicamadas. What the devil is an jicamada? A tostada made of jicama, of course.
However… my pal Tim Huntley at My Athletic Life gave me an SEO 101 class today, and if I want new readers to find my recipes, I need to give the recipes titles that regular people can understand. Amongst us friends, this recipe will forever be known as Vietnamese Jicamadas. But for the sake of the rest of the world, it’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad.
Let’s get a few more things out of the way before we dive into the recipe:
2. I brined the chicken first, and I recommend you do the same. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can skip the brining step, and you will be OK. The chicken might not be quite as tender and flavorful, but it will still be very tasty when nestled under the Vietnamese relish.
3a. I’m not sure that this recipe technically qualifies as fusion cuisine — a.k.a., a mashup of Asian and Mexican cuisine because “tostada” literally means “toasted” and my jicamada is not toasted, nor could it really be toasted, so it’s not really Mexican and, therefore, not really fusion (words matter, people!) — but I like to pretend, so… I just declared myself a fusion chef.
3b. This is clearly not authentic Vietnamese food… it’s “inspired by.” I replaced the traditional peanuts with cashews, used basil instead of cilantro, and just tossed together things that I thought would taste delicious, based on my memory of a bahn mi sandwich I ate on a sunny sidewalk in New York in 2006 (while wearing a white shirt, army green pants, a red plaid tie, and black Converse. I remember every detail of that day because it was so awesomely fun).
4. This is not first date food because you have to eat with your hands and sometimes, just like when you eat tacos (Do you remember what it’s like to eat tacos?!), the toppings fall off onto your plate. But that means when have hoovered in your last bite of jicamadas, you can scoop up the remnants from the plate for one last, perfect bite.
5. These guys are awesome summer food: cool, crisp, flavorful, light, and easy to make. You could make them half the size and serve them at a party, even! The jicamada bed is a sweet, crunchy balance to the peppery bite of the relish, and the little bit of mayo adds a creamy kiss that gets close to recreating the magic of a bahn mi sandwich. You can play around with the ingredients: cucumbers would be a good addition or substitution in the relish, and you can swap in cilantro for the basil.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad
a.k.a., Vietnamese Jicamadas
Serves 3-4 | Prep 10 min. | Brine 2 hrs. | Cook 20 min.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 tablespoon lime juice
a few fresh basil leaves
1 medium to large jicama
2 medium carrots, minced
4 medium radishes, minced
1 small jalapeno, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dry roasted cashews, finely chopped
6-8 large basil leaves, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
10 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional; I like Red Boat)
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Brine the chicken. Place a 1-gallon zipper storage bag inside a large bowl so the bag is standing up. Pour 4 cups of water into the bag, then add 3 cloves garlic, salt, and peppercorns. Stir with your hand to dissolve the salt, then add the chicken to the bag. This will look a bit unappetizing; avert your eyes. Seal the bag and place the bowl in the refrigerator for 2 hours, then rinse the chicken well and set aside until poaching time.
2. Prep the jicama. Wash and peel the jicama, cut it in half, then slice into 1/4-inch thick ovals. Place in a covered container and place in the fridge to chill while you prep the rest of the ingredients. (I tried slicing the jicama very thinly with my mandoline, but the eating experience was much better with the thicker slices.)
3. Poach the chicken. Place the chicken in a single layer in a large pot. Add 2 cups water, coconut aminos, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and a few basil leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat way down to a gentle simmer. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, then turn off heat, allowing the chicken to relax in the covered spa bath for 15-20 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, use two forks to shred it and set aside until it’s time to assemble the Jicamadas. While the chicken is cooking…
4. Prep the relish: In a large bowl, mix the carrots, radishes, jalapeo, garlic, cashews, basil, and mint until combined. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, oil, and fish sauce. Toss with a rubber spatula to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, then let the relish sit at room temperature so the flavors can meld.
5. Assemble the jicamadas: Spread an jicama slice with a little bit of mayo, then sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper. Pile shredded chicken on the jicama, then top with a few spoonfuls of the relish. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Eat with your hands, licking your fingers often.
Sunshine Sauce — you could get really hedonistic and drizzle some of this on top… just sayin…
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