Summer. Is. Officially. HERE!! YAY! And with it, super warm weather all over the place. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing better to eat on a hot day than a crisp, cool, and hydrating salad. Enter this tropical chayote squash salad, smashing together Southeast Asian cuisine with Mexican/Caribbean style ingredients!
I discovered chayote (also known as christophine, pipinola, choko, mirliton, and vegetable pear among others) while working as a yacht chef sailing in the Caribbean. I wondered what the heck these weird-looking produce items even WERE when I first saw them, and I was seeing them everywhere. Finally, after many sightings but no tastings, I decided to bite the bullet and do that thing that chefs do, ordering a “Christophine Farcie avec Crabe” in a tiny waterfront restaurant in the still pretty rustic Îles de Saintes, a Guadeloupe dependent archipelago in the French Antilles.
In the event you do not speak French, “Christophine Farcie avec Crabe” means “Crab Stuffed C
hayote”. And in the event you have never tried French food, it’s all pretty amazing. I was hooked immediately and introduced the dish into my tropical cheffing repertoire. And then I went to Thailand.
Chayote – which are members of the same family as cucumbers, melons, and squash – are mild, juicy vegetables. They are so apple-y when cooked that McDonalds was accused of using them in their apple pies to save moolah (disproved, btw…)! Stuffed with crab and breadcrumbs back when I didn’t know I had a gluten intolerance – AWESOME. And one day, when I discovered that the green papaya for the salad I’d learned to make in Thailand was no longer green, I turned to them in hopes that they could save me.
AND I WAS RIGHT! Turns out they taste a bit like a cross of a Granny Smith apple and a cucumber when raw – a PERFECT substitution when making Som Tam. Before you could say “green papaya salad”, I had made the switch full time because I simply liked the crunch better.
Now that they’re turning up at the Northern California farmers’ markets again, I am DOWN to bring back Caribbean-style with Cali-style ingredients!
- 1 medium – large chayote squash
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
- 2 Tablespoons shaved sweet or red onion or shallot
- 2 Tablespoons roughly chopped mint
- 2 Tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts (you can substitute cashews or almonds if you desire)
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce, coconut aminos, or tamari (soy sauce if you are not gluten free!)
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 5 drops or 1 packet stevia
- Optional: ⅛ teaspoon chili flakes
- Peel the chayote with a vegetable peeler, and then julienne into matchsticks using a mandoline or simply a sharp knife.
- Place the julienned chayote along with the tomatoes, onion, mint, cilantro, and nuts in a medium mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine fish sauce or alternative, lime juice, stevia, minced garlic, and chili flakes if desired.
- Pour the mixture over the vegetables, herbs, and nuts and toss well to combine.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with additional herbs and chopped nuts if desired.
How-To in Pictures:
Do you have any other ideas for chayote? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear!