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Soy Glazed Sweet Potatoes

November 15, 2010 | Tags: Deborah Madison , Food , Vegetables | Post comment

Soy Glazed Sweet Potatoes

You might not know this, but there are two basic types of sweet potatoes: dry fleshed and moist. The former often have Japanese names, like Hanna, or Kotobuki, for Japan is a country where this type is favored.  The skin is not always very dramatic in color, nor is the flesh inside, which can be whitish, pale yellow, but also magenta, which is dramatic!  But when cooked, the texture is on the dry side and the taste resembles that of roasted chestnuts, which is nutty and nice but not very sweet.

The moist fleshed types tend to have russet, red, and orange skins and deeply colored flesh which, when cooked, are very moist indeed. These are the sweet potatoes most Americans are familiar with.  They are often called yams, but botanically speaking, they’re not. The yam designation came about when growers started planting moist type sweet potatoes and they wanted to distinguish them from the dry-fleshed. And although it’s incorrect, the name has stuck. We have candied yams at Thanksgiving, and Jewel and Garnet sweet potatoes, two popular and nearly always available varieties, are usually referred to as yams.

Regardless of which type you prefer, a baked, steamed or pressure cooked sweet potato makes a quick supper, and when leftovers are heated up in a skillet their natural sugars caramelize. In addition to being delicious and soothing to eat, they’re full of vitamins A and C, carotenoids, iron and fiber. But it’s their satisfying flavor and texture that I go for.  At least once a week the mainstay of my supper is a simply cooked sweet potato along with a salad that includes some dark leafy greens.

This somewhat fancier recipe than consigning the tuber to the pressure cooker, take moments to ready for the oven and a little over an hour to bake.  When done, they should be lacquered and even blackened in places.  If you don’t eat them all in the first sitting, reheat them in a non-stick skillet and they’ll caramelize a bit. In fact, they’re even more delicious the second time around.  


3 large sweet potatoes, such as Jewel or Garnet (often called yams but they’re not)
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons sucanat or 1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 tablespoons mirin or sweet sherry
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon black and/ or white sesame seeds, toasted


Preheat the oven to 400’F.  Scrub the sweet potatoes and cut them lengthwise into quarters or halves.  Put them in a baking dish roomy enough to hold them in a single layer.  Combine the rest of the ingredients, except for the sesame seeds.  Brush the resulting sauce over the sweet potatoes, then cover the dish tightly with foil.  Bake until nearly tender, 50 minutes to an hour.  Remove the foil, baste the sweet potatoes with their juices, and return to the oven until the liquid has reduced to a glaze and the potatoes are fully tender.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Makes 12 plump pieces, serving 4 to 6