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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Daigaku Imo ...Caramel-Coated Sweet Potato for Regional Recipes

Some of you may remember telling you of a time when I did not understand the glory of the sweet potato.  Can you imagine?  Until the time when I first tasted one of these gorgeous, orange tubers unadulterated;  roasted in its jacket...with nothing but a pat of golden butter to accentuate its natural sweetness...sticky-sweet juices peeking from the steam holes poked around the outsides before roasting.  That was all it took.  The skies opened up and a whole world of possibilities shone on the horizon!

I love sweet potatoes with a pat of butter, a smattering of bleu cheese and bacon, and a sprinkling of salt...that's my go-to.  But I also like to try different avenues.  I was flipping through a great book full of easy Japanese recipes in search of something to bring to the table for Regional Recipes this month when a page fell from my thumb...a page that required the fan of pages to stop.  Immediately.  Staring me in the face was THE exact thing I wanted in my belly.  I read the description on my way to the library check-out desk, eyes glued to the page...led only by memory and spidey-sense...desire building and tummy waking from its slumber.

"Daigaku imo (meaning "university potato") is so called because it was created to fill the stomachs of the young, cheaply and easily, and became very popular among university students living away from home.  This dish is eaten as a sweet snack as well as a dessert."

Daigaku Imo
(Caramel-Coated Sweet Potato)
from Easy Japanese Cookbook by Emi Kazuko
serves 4

2 Tbs. sea salt
3-4 sweet potatoes (~1½ lbs), sliced lengthwise and cut into ½" thick half-moons
oil for deep-frying
 ½ c. sugar
1 tsp. shoyu (soy sauce)
1 Tbs. black sesame seeds (black, white, or a mix)

Stir the salt into 2 c. water and add the sweet potatoes; leave 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels. 

Heath the oil in a deep wok or pan to 200° F.  Gently slide in the potatoes and deep-fry, gradually increasing the heat to a higher temperature,5-6 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove w/ slotted spoon and drain on wire rack.

Put sugar and shoyu in a large saucepan w/ 5 Tbs. water. Heat over medium heat 5-6 minutes, stirring until mixture becomes syrupy. Remove pan from heat and fold in hot, fried potatoes. Sprinkle w/ sesame seeds and serve hot.
These are an amazing snack...the light shell of salty caramel softly envelopes the crisp outsides of the sweet potato...and then you bite in, exposing a tender, warm semi-circle of bliss.  It's the simple things in life, isn't it?