In Italy, sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes are called topinambur (earth apple), and show up raw, steamed, or trifolati, sliced or fried with garlic or parsley. In Northern California, sunchokes make an appearance in springtime after they have been hiding underground during the winter. They fit into that category of root vegetables that we might rarely eat due to their odd and unusual appearance. However, we mustn’t let looks turn our stomachs away.
Speaking of stomachs, sunchokes do have a bit of a reputation for causing, ummm how to put this delicately, flatulence, but let’s overlook that for now!
At first glance, one might be reminded of ginger when looking at the sunchoke due to the bulbous shape with interesting protrusions. However, once cut into and tasted, we find the sunchoke to have very mild, earthy flavor and a white inside much like a potato.
The sunchoke is technically not a root, but an edible tuber, found on the root of the North American sunflower, the Helianthus tuberosusis.
Anytime you would use a potato or carrot, a sunchoke could fill the bill. Slice and eat raw in salads, roast, or add to soups, or, as in this recipe, thinly slice and fry in oil to mimic a potato chip. For something different, try pickling! (Food 52 recipe here). The most challenging aspect of the sunchoke is the cleaning; it can be tricky to remove dirt lurking in all the nooks and crannies. I usually scrub them well, break off any nubs, and blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes to finish off the cleaning process. They are well worth the effort, as they are full of fiber and provide potassium, iron, and some B vitamins.
- 1 lb. sunchokes
- ½ cup avocado oil or sunflower oil with a low smoke point
- 1 tbsp. Maldon crystalized salt or coarse sea salt
- ketchup, salsa, or a favorite dipping sauce
- Firmly scrub each sunchoke to remove any residual soil. There is no need to peel the sunchokes, but you might want to cut off any of the small nubbins and save those for a salad or soup.
- Slice sunchokes into ⅛ inch rounds. It's important to thinly slice the sunchokes so they get nice and crispy while frying.
- Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Lay several paper towels on a plate to absorb excess oil after frying.
- Pan-fry the sunchokes in two batches. Place half of the sliced sunchokes in the heated oil and fry until light-brown on one side. Flip them over and fry the other side until light brown for a total of about 3- 4 minutes per side.
- Using a metal spatula, remove the sunchokes and place them on the paper towels. Pat the top with another paper towel to remove excess oil.
- To serve, place sunchokes in a bowl and sprinkle generously with Maldon or coarse salt. Serve with ketchup, salsa, or your choice of dipping sauce.
- These pan-fried sunchokes can be served alone as a side dish, on top of a salad, or as a soup garnish. They add flavor and heft to any dish or make a yummy snack.