Yakiimo: Roasted Sweet Potato
Roasted sweet potatoes are probably the most popular snack in Japan in the autumn. It’s simple, really: you just roast a sweet potato over dry heat. Nothing more. It’s certainly comfort food but…can something this simple be counted as Japanese home cooking?
Based on this snack’s popularity, I think the answer is a definite yes.
Actually, the word “snack” gives the wrong idea. When you hear “snack” you picture someone munching junk food mindlessly out of a bag while watching TV. The word I was looking for is おやつ – “oyatsu” – which isn’t like that at all.
Oyatsu is a concept that doesn’t really seem to exist in North America. It’s more like “afternoon tea” is for the English, or “merienda” in Spain and Latin America: a very light, mid-afternoon meal mothers feed their kids when they come home from school. Oyatsu-eating comes complete with its little rules, rituals and repetitions. In a way, it’s a real shame that there’s no oyatsu culture out here.
- Sweet potatoes
There are many kinds of sweet potato, but in Japan we always make yakiimo using the “Satsumaimo” variety, never the ones that are orange inside.
- Butter (optional)
- Salt (optional)
- Roast sweet potato covered in a pan on a very low flame for about an hour (turning over now and again.)
- Serve with butter or salt, to taste.
If you’re barbequing, wrap each sweet potato in aluminium foil and grill.
I really don’t know why, but in Japan yakiimo is always served with milk. I think it’s a great combo. So when you make yakiimo, pour yourself a tall glass of cold milk.