This purple Okinawan sweet potato was just too pretty not to share. I mean just look at that color….too gorgeous! We come across these from time to time at the farmers market or at our favorite ethnic produce stores. Intrigued about this ingredient and what to do with it, I did a little reading up about the Yaki-Imo trucks in Japan that roam the streets in the fall and winter months selling Japanese yams roasted over charcoal. The thought of bundled up kids swarming around for warm sweet potatoes for their afterschool “oyatsu” is a good thought indeed and with the gray, damp chill in the air the last few days it really does seem like the perfect kind of snack for warming up and filling up. There are even school yaki-imo festivals where kids and parents gather to build a big fire out of firewood and fallen leaves and bake tons of sweet potatoes and play games. My kind of party!
With no Yaki-Imo trucks in sight (sigh..), we’ll have to settle for roasting our own sweet potatoes at home. One recommended technique for making sure your sweet potatoes are “hoku hoku” — a unique Japanese term for starchy, dense, sweet flavor and texture — is to slow roast them in a heavy pan on your stove over a low flame for about an hour turning them often. You can also wrap them in foil and roast them over indirect heat on your BBQ, or in your oven until they are hot, tender and fluffy. Wrap each potato in a little newspaper so you can hold it in your hand, peel away the skin and sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt.
I remember my friend Josephine serving up little cubes of steamed Okinawan sweet potato to both her boys as one of their very first finger foods. Like most richly colored veggies, these are a real super food packed with tons of nutrients and vitamins and they’re naturally sweet to appeal to young tastebuds. So the long and short of it is if you happen to come across some of these beauties (or their cousin the Japanese yam), snap them up and have some fun!