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Sengkuang is large and oblate, averaging 10-15 centimeters in diameter, and is shaped similar to a beet. The thick, fibrous outer skin is brown to cream-colored and has a rough texture. The inner flesh is white and crisp with a watery, translucent juice. Sengkuang is crunchy with a sweet and starchy flavor.
Sengkuang is available year-round, with peak season in the winter through late spring.
Sengkuang, botanically classified as Pachyrhizus Erosus, belongs to the legume, or bean family. Also known as the Sweet turnip, Chinese turnip, Mexican turnip, Jicama, yam bean, Ubi Sengkuang, Sha ge, Dou shu, Mangkuang, Mexican yam bean, and Singkamas, Sengkuang is a popular root vegetable in Southeast Asia and is used in main dishes and as a street vendor snack food. On average, Sengkuang weighs around two to three kilograms when found in markets, but it can grow up to two meters in length and weigh over twenty kilograms if left unharvested.
Sengkuang is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.
Sengkuang can be used in both raw and cooked applications such as frying, steaming, and boiling. When consumed raw, it is typically sliced and served with salt, chili powder, lemon, or lime juice. It is also popularly used in salads. Sengkuang can be chopped and used in stir-fries and served with gado-gado, also known as a peanut sauce. It is also used in soups, as a filling for tofu pockets, fried with cuttlefish, or ground into flour for use in desserts. Sengkuang pairs well with lemon, lime, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, cilantro, sesame oil, chili powder, red onions, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, Chinese lettuce, peppers, pineapple, orange, papaya, and avocado. Sengkuang will keep for three weeks when stored in a cool and dry place.
Sengkuang is a staple ingredient in Filipino and Malaysian cuisine. In the Philippines, Sengkuang is used in lumpia or consumed fresh with salt, rice vinegar, and shrimp paste as a snack. In Malaysia, the popular dish rojak buah combines vegetables, fruits, sengkuang, and nuts in a sweet sauce. They also use Sengkuang in the ceremonial New Year’s dish yusheng, which is a traditional raw fish salad. Tradition includes guests tossing the salad up in the air with chopsticks to predict prosperity for the New Year.
Sengkuang is native to Mexico and Central America and was spread by Spanish explorers to the Philippines. It is widely cultivated across the world today and can be found in farmers markets and grocers in North and South America, Central America, the Caribbean, China, India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.