This perennial, but annual winter crop of Bengal is known as kesaru or miskri kand in Bihar. It is commonly called ‘Shankalu’ or “Sankesh alu” in West Bengal, Assam and Orissa. Shankh, which means conch, and alu meaning potato refers to its pearly white flesh, which is offered during Saraswati Puja in late January. "Goddess Saraswati in white identified as the symbol of purity” used to offer white sweets, bananas and shankalu."
One who do not know the taste and the name of Shankhalu or Mexican Turnip or Jicama or even the name Yam Bean they will interestingly guess it as asian pears for its fresh, sweet and crunchiness or as water chest nuts because the similarity of its white and woody texture. It is a root vegetable like potato though not so starchy and it is juicier. This refreshing, crispy, ice-white, fruit-like root can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of sweet as well as savory dishes worldwide. Yam bean is a native of Mexico and Central America. It is also grown in China, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Bhutan Myanmar and the South Pacific Islands.
Crunchy Yam Bean Shankhalu Snacks
- Yam Bean is very easy to eat or cook. It’s thin papery skin can be peeled off easily. One can eat it promptly or just dusted with salt and chilli powder. A spicy, salty diced fruit seasoned with salt, lemon, or lime juice and chili powder is a wonderful party food.
- Jícama is often paired with chili powder, cilantro, ginger, lemon, lime, orange, red onion, salsa, sesame oil, grilled fish, and soy sauce. It is also cooked in soups and stir-fried dishes.
- It can be cut into thin wedges and dipped in salsa as a healthier alternative to corn chips. In Mexico, it is popular in salads, fresh fruit combinations, fruit bars, soups, and other cooked dishes.
- Jícama has become popular in Vietnamese food as an ingredient in pie, where it is called cay cu đau.
- In the Philippines, jícama is known locally as singkamas and usually eaten fresh with condiments such as rice vinegar and sprinkled with salt, or with bagoong [shrimp paste]. It mixes well with other common vegetables and fruits like orange, pineapple, carrot, green beans as well as with poultry, meat and seafood.
- In Indonesia, they are served with much like Malayan salad but with added rujak sauce made from palm sugar, tamarind, shrimp paste, chili peppers, and sautéed peanut paste. Also, as a rujak tumbuk, wherein all the above-mentioned ingredients ground in a wooden mortar and served in a banana leaf.
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Prep time: 5 min | Cook time: 5 minutes | Total time: 10 min | Yield: Medium bowl
Serving size: 2 serving | Calories per serving: 50
- Shakalu 200g,
- rock salt,
- red chili powder,
- chaat masala,
- green chutney [coriander leaves, lemon juice, green chili, rock salt, slight sugar] paste,
- red chutney [tamarind, jaggary, red chili powder] as required by taste.
Wash the fruit in cool running water. Peel off the skin. Also other plant parts should be discarded. It then can be cut into cubes, sliced, or chopped as desired. Add rock salt, chaat masala, green chutney, red chutney and serve.
Pachyrrhizus erosus or jicama is in fact a legume that falls within the family Leguminoceae and sub family fabaceae. It is crisp, has no distinctive flavor and one can easily confuse the scrapped yam bean as moong bean sprouts. Some of the common names of yam bean are Mexican water chestnut, Mexican turnip, sengkwang, yacon etc. It is pronounced as hecama.
Healthy Fruit Path
Jícama is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary fiber. It is composed of 86–90% water; it contains only trace amounts of protein and lipids. Its sweet flavor comes from theoligofructose inulin [also called fructo-oligosaccharide] which is a prebiotic. Jícama is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of potassium and Vitamin C. It is one of the finest sources of dietary fiber; particularly excellent source of oligofructose inulin, a soluble dietary fiber. The root pulp provides 4.9 mg or 13% of fiber. Inulin is a zero calorie sweet inert carbohydrate. It does not metabolize inside the human body, which make the root an ideal sweet snack for diabetics and dieters. As in turnips, fresh yam bean tubers are also rich in vitamin C; provide about 20.2 mg or 34% of DRA of vitamin C per 100 g. Vitamin-C is a powerful water-soluble anti-oxidant that helps body scavenge harmful free radicals, thereby offers protection from cancers, inflammation and viral cough and cold.
It also contains small levels of some of valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and thiamin.
In contrast to this edible taproot, the remainder of the jícama plant is very poisonous.
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The cultivation of potato is now-a-days very much extended in Bengal, where the soil is said to be unfit for its cultivation there are several species of native potatoes planted in homestead lands and dug up after one year. Sweet potato are of two kinds one is red, called ranga alu and the other white called dhola alu and shankalu. These species are regularly cultivated in the fields.