Happy November! In America, Thanksgiving is coming up at the end of the month. A food that my family commonly eats around this time of year is sweet potatoes. Whether it be in pie form, or that strange mush with marshmallows on top (also called candied sweet potatoes), for many Americans, sweet potatoes are a must for the fall season.
Sweet potatoes also happen to be one of my favorite foods. I love them so much, I’ve dedicated each Friday, during the month of November, to recipes that feature this humble tuber. Hopefully, you will find some new staples for your Thanksgiving meal, or, you know, for any time of the year.
If you’ve read my About page, you know that I have a degree in Global Studies. My minor was East Asian Literature and Languages, and I was lucky enough visit Japan. This recipe, Daigaku Imo, or college potatoes, is a Japanese tradition—though I did not encounter this recipe during my trip there. They’re called college potatoes because they are a common snack for college students. These are perfect for eating as the weather grows colder. Warm and sweet, crispy and chewy, Daigaku Imo may just be my new favorite thing. My family was a little skeptical about trying these; but I converted them. In fact, the plate that I made didn’t last the day.
A special note: this recipe is made with Asian sweet potatoes. The skin of the potato has more of a purple/red hue, and the flesh is white, not orange. I find that Asian sweet potatoes are sweeter and more firm than the American variety. The consistency is a little like a chestnut. To my palate, they are different enough that I get specific cravings for Asian sweet potatoes over the American variety. I purchased mine at my local grocery co-op, but if you are having a hard time finding them, try an Asian market.
Okay, let’s get to the recipe. I used Just One Cookbook’s recipe, by Namiko Chen, which can be found here, or as transcribed below. If you go to the link, there are a lot of helpful pictures, and even a video! But, I too, have pictures, so you pick which version to use. 😀
Japanese Candied Sweet Potatoes
1 Japanese sweet potato
3 tbsp. vegetable oil ( I used canola)
5 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. soy sauce (I used gluten-free soy sauce)
¼ tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp. black sesame seeds, roasted
- Wash the sweet potato well, as the skin won’t be removed.
- Use the Japanese technique called rangiri to cut diagonal cubes of sweet potato. Achieve this by cutting diagonally while rotating the sweet potato about a quarter after each cut. I don’t think I got this technique quite right, but it still tastes fine. I would recommend watching the video here to see the technique in action.
- Soak the potatoes in water for at least 10 minutes. Change the water. Soak another 5 minutes to remove the starch. This ensures that the potatoes will be crispy.
- Without heating the pan, add the sugar, oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Stir until combined.
- Drain the water from the sweet potatoes, and use paper towels to dry them. Place in the pan.
- Cover the pan with the lid and turn the heat to medium.
- When you hear bubbling sounds from the pan, turn the heat to medium-low. After about 2 minutes, remove the lid and begin flipping the potatoes, ensuring that all sides become golden brown.
- Cook about 8-10 minutes, or until a fork or skewer goes easily through the potatoes.
- Transfer to a serving plate/bowl, sprinkle black sesame seeds, and serve.
When making the test recipe, I accidentally put the sesame seeds in with everything else, but mixing it all together in the beginning doesn’t change anything and actually ensures that all the potatoes are evenly covered with sesame seeds.
Also, the vinegar in this recipe helps keep the sugar from hardening when it cools down.