Oct 1, 2014
With its conspicuous reddish-purple skin, it is impossible to miss satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato) when you see it. But what truly sets it apart from the American sweet potato is what lies beneath that brilliant bright coat.
One of the oldest vegetables ever discovered, the sweet potato was believed to have its roots in Central America or South America some 5,000 years ago. It was some time later in the 16th century when the tuber was introduced to China before it entered Japan. Best cultivated in milder climates, the crop grew in the southern parts of Japan, with over 80 percent of the production concentrated in Kyushu.
It doesn’t take a lot to distinguish satsumaimo from its American counterpart; where the American sweet potato has a brown skin and orange flesh, satsumaimo stands out with its vibrant reddish-purple skin that encases pale yellow flesh. In terms of taste and texture, satsumaimo is sweeter, slightly denser and less moist – locals often likened it to the chestnut. While the above description is that of a typical satsumaimo, there are actually over a hundred species of satsumaimo available in the market. Varying in shapes, colours and tastes, each type consists of certain properties that are suitable for different methods of cooking. A popular variety is murasaki imo (purple sweet potato), a fairly new species of satsumaimo with rich purple flesh that is often used in desserts.
There are several Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in the Kanto region (which encompasses Tokyo) that are dedicated to honouring the satsumaimo. Going by its history, it’s no wonder why. In the mid-18th century, Japan – in particular, the north of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in the Kanto region – was ravaged by famine after years of rice crop failure. As a result of widespread famine, riots were also common. At the same time, a scholar named Aoki Konyo, who had been experimenting with the cultivation of satsumaimo, managed to do so successfully despite the harsh and cold weather conditions. Soon after, satsumaimo crops started to flourish and the tuber became an alternative energy source to make up for the lack of rice – a tremendous move that helped save countless lives. Because of this, Aoki was crowned the “Potato God of Edo” for his breakthrough experiment.
The sweetness and earthy fragrance of sweet potatoes makes them delicious simply steamed and without any additional flavourings. But above and beyond its taste, satsumaimo is bursting with nutrition, such as vitamin C. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C helps boost your immune system, protect your skin from free radical damage (after sun exposure), as well as prevent heart disease.
For those watching their weight, satsumaimo makes for an ideal choice of food for several reasons: it is a great source of dietary fibre, which is known to not only improve bowel movements but also keep you feeling full for longer; and, because of its high water content of over 60 percent, each serving size (100g) only contains about 130 calories. Thanks to its low glycemic index, which means it slowly and steadily releases glucose into the bloodstream, satsumaimo is also recommended for diabetics.
Other nutritional benefits of satsumaimo include keeping your iron levels and blood pressure in check, boosting your metabolism, and promoting eye health.
Store them in cool, dark areas. For unwashed satsumaimo, make sure they are kept refrigerated in a plastic bag, for no longer than three days.
(Text Tan lili image 6274656 | taka03162001• www.pixtastock.com)
500g Sweet potato
1 tbs Mayonnaise
1 tsp Butter
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Sugar
1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
2. Steam the sweet potatoes for 10 minutes, until they become soft.
3. Peel the carrots and cut them into thin pieces.
4. Boil the carrots with salt, sugar and butter, until the carrots
5. Puree the carrots together with mayonnaise to make a
6. Pour the mixture over the steamed sweet potatoes. Mix them well, and serve.
200g Sweet potato
150g Cottage cheese
1 tbs Butter
1 tbs Bread crumbs
2 tsp Parmigiano cheese
1 tsp Salt
1 pinch Pepper
1. Peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1cm cubes.
3. Mix the pumpkin and sweet potato cubes with milk and butter, before boiling them until they become soft.
4. Once soft, add the cottage cheese.
5. Shift the mixture into a baking plate, add bread crumbs and Parmigiano cheese on top. Bake it in a preheated 250°C oven
for 7 minutes.
Recipes provided by: Reiko Yamada, a cooking advisor (www.reiko-cooking.com)