One of my favorite food memories is eating a blazing–hot sweet potato roasted in a street-corner barrel oven and handed to me, unadorned, in a paper bag. It was a frigid winter day in Seoul, where roasted potatoes are a traditional local snack. I’d never had such an amazing potato—so sweet, with a texture and scent reminiscent of chestnuts.
Since then, I’ve been delighted to find these singularly sweet potatoes (also known as Korean or Japanese yams) at Asian produce stands in the US and even in American supermarkets, and I enjoy them all through autumn and winter. Called goguma in Korean and satsuma imo in Japanese, they're also labeled bam goguma and kotobuki.
How to Pick 'em
Shop in Asian and gourmet markets for plump, heavy yams with taut, unblemished skin. Store them in a paper bag in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks. Do not refrigerate (which may affect the yams’ texture and flavor, and the way they cook).
How to Slice 'em
While whole yams are always delicious (roasted or baked), here are some more ways to prep and use them. Always scrub yams under cold water before cooking.
- Wedges roast wonderfully—the result is golden on the outside and tender on the inside.
- Slice yams into rounds, or cut them into cubes for soups and stews to showcase their unusual flavor and satisfying starchiness.