Why It Works
- The flavors of different citruses are paired to form a complex, layered vinaigrette.
- Curing chayote in salt and sugar brings out its natural sweetness by removing excess water while transforming its raw jicama-like snap into a softer crisp texture.
Chayote is known as Buddha’s palm in China, a nod to its shape. Much like in its native Mexico, chayote is usually eaten cooked in China, but when served raw, it has a delightful crunch that recalls jicama, with a mild, fruity sweetness somewhere between an apple and a cucumber.
To fully coax out those characteristics, this recipe pairs chayote with thin slices of apple and a light citrus vinaigrette based on the framework of my “all-purpose” Chinese dressing. Instead of the salty and savory kick of soy sauce that my all-purpose recipe calls for, this one uses Japanese ponzu, while lemon juice stands in for the Chinese black vinegar. Korean honey-citron tea concentrate takes the place of granulated sugar, but I use twice as much of the concentrate, as it’s half as sweet as pure sugar is. I also round out the seasoning oil with some toasted sesame oil for nutty depth. It’s an example of how you can start with that basic recipe and make thoughtful (and even unexpected) changes to any component if you want to create a whole new flavor profile.
Despite all these changes, I stick to my basic ratio (by volume) of three parts salty-savory ingredient, three parts oil, one part acid, and one part sweet.
Of all the recipes I developed to demonstrate the versatility of my all-purpose Chinese-style vinaigrette, this one is certainly the least traditional. Even though I wouldn’t expect to find this in any restaurants or homes back in China, the introduction of citrus to cold dishes isn’t by any means unheard of, and you’ll find it in cucumber, noodle, or hand-pulled chicken dishes.