Fall is here and it’s my favorite season of the year. I love how leaves turn into beautiful colors and make joyful crackling sounds as you step on them. And I love these Candied Sweet Potatoes (Daigaku Imo, 大学芋) during this season.
I deeply miss Japan’s beautiful autumn and the freshly harvested rice and crops available during this season. We say, “Fall is a season for big appetites”. And it’s true. After brutally hot summer days, our appetite is back and ready to enjoy freshly harvested treats from the fields.
When I was in kindergarten, I remember I went to harvest sweet potatoes with class as part of a school excursion. We brought home freshly harvested sweet potatoes and my mom made these candied sweet potatoes.
The sweet potatoes were deep fried till crispy, glazed in a sweet sugary syrup and finished with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. My dad and I love all kinds of potatoes and we would be quiet for the next few minutes while we devoured them.
In Japanese, these candied sweet potatoes are called Daigaku Imo (大学芋), literally meaning “University Potatoes”. There are a few theories regarding the origin of name (according to Japanese Wikipedia) but basically this dish was a popular snack at universities in Tokyo during early 1900′s.
This snack is still popular today and can be found at many food stands and school festivals during the fall season. However, as I live outside of Japan, only way to enjoy this snack is to make my own at home.
I’ve been deep frying the sweet potatoes just like how it’s traditionally made until this year. Then my friend suggested this new method: a combination of steaming and very shallow frying.
To be honest, I was skeptical. There’s no way the candied sweet potatoes can taste better than old-fashion deep fried method. Right?
Well, I gave it a shot. And I was blown away. This candied sweet potatoes recipe is pretty close to deep fried version and I’ve been making this dish more frequently than ever because it’s super easy to make and delicious!
The sweet potatoes are crispy outside and inside is cooked till the right soft texture. The sticky sugary outer layer makes this a wonderful dessert or afternoon snack.
I hope you enjoy this sweet and slightly savory daigaku imo this fall. Thank you so much for reading!
- 11 oz. (300g) Japanese sweet potato
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 5 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. roasted black sesame seeds
- We don’t peel the skin of sweet potato so wash carefully.
- Cut diagonally while rotating the sweet potato a quarter between cuts. This Japanese cutting technique is called “Rangiri”.
- Soak in water for 15 minutes to remove starch. Change the water a few times.
- Wrap the frying pan’s lid with kitchen cloth. This is to prevent condensation on the lid dripping into sweet potatoes while cooking.
- Do not heat the frying pan yet. Add sugar, oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar in the pan and combine all together.
- Dry the sweet potatoes completely with paper towel and place in the pan.
- Cover with the lid and turn on the heat to medium.
- When you hear bubbling sound from the pan, turn the heat to low to medium-low, and set timer for 2 minutes. Open the lid and flip the sweet potatoes every 2-3 minute so that all sides will have nice golden brown color and get flavored.
- Depends on the size of sweet potatoes, the cooking time varies, cook for 8-10 minutes or until an inserted skewer goes through smoothly (I personally prefer it a bit tougher than completely soft texture). Now transfer to the serving plate/bowl and sprinkle black sesame seeds.
* Vinegar helps the sugar from hardening when it cools down.