Friday, 18 December 2009
Potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams... All are familiar root vegetables in Japan too, but my favourite is “yamaimo” literally meaning “mountain yam”.
Yama-imo (or called yamato-imo locally) is a fist-shaped yam which has been consumed in Japan since its pre-historic period. To fully enjoy the extreme stickiness as well as soupiness in texture, we often “grate” the yam, a bit diluted with dashi (fish broth) and traditionally eat it pouring over boiled rice mixed with barley. The yam is digestible enough to be eaten in raw, thus, plays a supporting role in need of another quick savoury in the kitchen. Nice.
Cooked yamaimo is also tasty as represented by “isobe-age” (deep-fried yamaimo wrapped with dried seaweed), one of popular menus served in “izaka-ya”, a Japanese gastronomic pub. Though I like the flavour myself, my family finds fried seaweed smells fishy, so the following recipe is my twist for minimalists. No matter who you are, that’s easy-peasy to cook.
PAN-FRIED YAMAIMO NUGGETS
* Makes around 15
150g yamaimo (available in a Japanese grocery. Frozen? I don’t approve, really)
Salt or soy sauce, to serve
1. Peel yamaimo and soak it in lightly-vinegered water for 10 minutes to eliminate the bitterness.
2. Grate the yam in a bowl. I don’t recommend using a food processor because the yam gets watery. Go with a hand grater for this small portion.
3. Take a teaspoonful of the yam dough, then place it on a tray. Repeat with the remaining dough until you have around 15 pieces. This is definitely a two-teaspoon job as the grated yam is so sticky to handle with a single utensil.
4. Heat the generous amount of vegetable oil in a frying-pan. When the oil is hot, drop the pieces on the pan with an oiled spoon (or spoons), and fry them turning a couple of times. When they’re browned and crisp, lift them out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
5. Serve straight away, accompanied by salt or soy sauce.
1. Don’t skip the process of #3. To avoid burning, the dough should be neatly divided before frying.
2. The cooked yam gets rubbery when cool. Serve while hot!
You’ll enjoy the dual texture: elastic inside yet crispy outside. Plus, it tastes like a freshly-made rice crackers. This yam is real yum. No joke.
FYI, on this photo is “yamaimo”, usually available in vacuum-packed at a supermarket. We also have “naga-imo” (long yam), which not only sounds but also looks similar with yamaimo. Being more watery as well as lighter, it’s good to be eaten in julienne.