Japan Eats

Recipe: Sweet potato kimpira

Satsuma imo, or sweet potato, is used in Japanese cuisine for both sweet and savory dishes.

Kimpira is a Japanese cooking style in which vegetables are sautéd, then simmered on a low heat. Kimpira is most commonly associated with gobo (burdock roots) or other root vegetables such as lotus roots, carrots, and sometimes daikon (Japanese radish).

The basic approach is to cut the vegetables into thin rectangular strips, and sauté them in the sugar and soy sauce. The saltiness of the soy sauce will bring out the natural sweetness of the potatoes, so there’s no need for much added sugar. For colour, sprinkle black sesame seeds over the sweet potato as a garnish.

This dish is hashi-yasume, which literally means “rest for the chopsticks”.

Sweet potato kimpira

Sweet potato kimpira

Ingredients (serves 3 – 4)

  • 200 – 250 g sweet potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 table spoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 2 – 3 pinches of black sesame seeds

Method

Wash the sweet potatoes. Slice them diagonally into pieces 3 mm thick, then again lengthwise into strips 4 – 5 cm long and 3 mm x 3 mm wide.

Soak the strips in a bowl of cold water and rinse them, changing the water in the bowl 3 – 4 times to remove some of the starch.

Place a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on a high heat. Add the sweet potatoes to the pan after removing some of the the moisture with a paper towel. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring every so often.

Turn the heat down to medium, add sugar, sake , soy sauce and mirin then continue sautéing the ingredients until the sauce is almost gone. Add the sesame oil at the end, turn off the heat then mix well.

Place the slices of sweet potato on a plate, sprinkle the black sesame seeds, then serve.

Recipe: Shinjaga no teriyaki (baby potatoes in teriyaki sauce)

The Japanese potato season may be early summer, but now’s the time to take advantage shinjaga – baby potatoes.

Shinjaga is short for shin jagaimo, or baby potatoes. Currently in season, they are outcasts of sorts: farmers sell them to make room for their larger brothers and sisters. They taste delicious, however, and are particularly suited to sopping up sauces like this combination of garlic, butter and soy.

Today’s recipe makes either a great appetizer or a main course. Two tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter will result in a lighter dish. Add pancetta or bacon, on the other hand, and it can stand on its own as a main meal.

Shinjaga no teriyaki (baby potatoes in teriyaki sauce)

Shinjaga no teriyaki (baby potatoes in teriyaki sauce)

Ingredients

  • 800 g baby potatoes
  • 40 g finely chopped garlic
  • 20 g butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley

Method

First, wash the baby potatoes. You don’t need to peel their skins as they’re very thin. If you use a brush when you wash them, the skins will come off easily.

Place a pot with a liter and a half of cold water, 2 – 3 pinches of salt and the potatoes on a high heat. When the water comes to the boil, turn the gas down to medium. Allow the pot to boil for 10 – 15 minutes.

Check if the potatoes are cooked by using a skewer on the largest one. When they are done, drain.

Place a large frying pan containing butter and finely chopped garlic on the stove. Turn the heat to low and sauté for 1 minute, taking care so that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Once the it begins to produce a strong aroma, add the boiled baby potatoes to the pan and sprinkle a pinch of salt. Sauté on a medium heat until each potato is coated with butter and garlic.

Mix 1 tablespoon of mirin and 2  1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce in a cup. Add this sauce to the pan. Flip the pan so that the potatoes are completely coated in the sauce.

Once the liquid has been reduced, turn off the heat and sprinkle finely chopped parsley over the potatoes. Mix well and serve.