EOWTTA*: I is for Ipomoea batatas

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

*Eating Our Way Through The Alphabet

Don’t say I didn’t warn you that some cheating might be involved with this EOWTTA thing. I couldn’t quite think of anything starting with I except maybe ice and icing. Luckily, a familiarity with Linnaean nomenclature proved handy.

And what exactly is Ipomoea batatas? None other than the humble sweet potato! A mild mannered but occasionally surprising (see end of post) tuber.

I love the mild sweetness of this tuber and we do go through a lot of it. Mum used to make a clear sweet dessert soup, more a syrup really, with sweet potato in it. Another Malaysian dessert that utilises this root is Bubur cha-cha.

Because sweet potato is such a familiar vegetable, I always assumed it was native to Asia. Not so. Apparently, sweet potato originated in the tropical parts of South America, and has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years.

In North America, sweet potatoes are sometimes called yams, but they are not part of the Yam family. It is also only very distantly related to the potato. Apparently confusion started because this tuber had the indegenious Tanio name of batata which sounded similar to potato.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_potato

There are a few varieties of sweet potato, usually differentiated by colour. For example there is a purple skinned, white-fleshed version, a brown skinned yellow-fleshed version and the familiar orange version. In Australia and New Zealand, the orange sweet potato is sometimes referred to by its Maori name Kumara.

Orange sweet potatoes are very rich in dietary fibre, beta carotene and other carotenoids. They are also a good source of vitamin E, and contain some folate.

Sweet potato proponents have dubbed it a “super food”, and according to
guys “A Sweet Potato a Day Keeps the Doctor Away”.

While we’re on the subject of Ipomeoea, a close relative of the Sweet Potato is the “water spinach” or Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica Forsk., also known as Ipomoea reptans). This is a popular vegetable in South East Asia and is usually stir-fried with garlic and chilli. In fact, sweet potato leaves are also edible and we loved it fried with garlic.

I can eat sweet potato in any form: wedges, chips, baked, boiled ,steamed, fried, anything. But I had a food memory from Thailand I wanted to try out for this post. Tiny deep-fried sweet potato balls, which are called: Khanom Khai Nok Krata. They have a slightly crisp outer “skin” and a chewy, mildly sweet centre.

After a quick search, I stumbled upon a great blog and a recipe! If you’d like to try these, check out this post at Shesimmers. Because I don’t feel like turning on the oven, I steam the potatoes instead of baking it as the recipe recommends. I think this made the potatoes way too wet and I ended up with tasty morsels but did not quite get the texture right.

Drying the sweet potato balls before frying 

Also, something quite freaky happened. I left the balls on my wooden bread boards to “dry out” before frying, and they turned a lurid shade of green! Still fried up ok, but I’m really not quite sure what could have happened. Maybe it was a reaction between the carotenoids and the baking soda in the recipe? Maybe, or maybe not, according to some info found here. If anyone has an explanation, I’d love to know! And how do you do sweet potato?

They turned green! No food colouring was involved in the making of this photo. 

Have a sweet (potato) day!


Juliana said...

Wow, this sweet potatoes balls look very yummie, I love sweet potatoes therefore must try this recipe...but will try to fry them before turning green :-)

Ellie said...

I was wondering what it was... Sweet potato! I haven't seen these purple skin sweet potatoes in Sydney. May be I didn't look out for them. Ate them a lot back in Malaysia. They turned green!! Never heard of seen before. It's freaking but fun!!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I've heard so much about those sweet potato balls-I should really try them as I can imagine the sweetness would go so well with the deep frying action! :)

Y said...

Yum! I've eaten something similar, and had forgotten how good they were. Curious that they turned green though! Would love to know why too.

Barbara said...

Well Shaz- that's the way to get around the "I" problem all right- and besides, we all learned something today! (And what's wrong with ice cream may I ask??)
I am going to love making these- we adore sweet potatoes around here and frying them sounds delish. Don't think I will let them hang out on my counter too long though.....

Malar Gandhi said...

That is very beautifully done. I used make some sweet balls with sweet potatoes soemthing similar to this...but your version looks too good, wanna try them soon.:)

Alisa@Foodista said...

What a great post! The photos are wonderful Shaz!I came across your blog from the foodieblogroll and I'd love to guide our readers to your site if you won't mind.Just add your choice of foodista widget to this post and it's all set, Thanks!

s said...

looks great..wish sweet potatoes were readily available where i live..

Hungry Dog said...

I wonder why they turned green! how strange! I love sweet potatoes in so many ways--baked, as chips, in gnocchi...yum.

shaz said...

Thanks everyone - great to see so many sweet potato fans! I am still extremely curious about the green thing...may have to experiment more :)