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Japanese Satsuma imo (sweet potato) are renowned for their sweetness and flavors. There are many ways of cooking them, including the "yakiimo" that often appears in anime and manga. This article introduces great ways to eat Satsumaimo, and where to buy them.

What are Satsumaimo?

Sweet potatoes are a type of potato that are cultivated around the world and were introduced to Japan from China around 1600 AD. They first made their way to Satsuma (current day Kagoshima Prefecture) through Ryukyu (current day Okinawa Prefecture) and thus called "Satsumaimo" (literally Satsuma potato) in Japan. In addition to Kagoshima Prefecture, prefectures such as Ibaraki and Chiba are now famous producers of Satsumaimo, and there are many different varieties, including ones known for high sugar content, ones characterized by a delicate sweetness, ones with a fluffy texture, and ones that are moist and smooth.

The best ways to eat Satsumaimo

Satsumaimo can be enjoyed a variety of different ways, as savories or sweets and cooked Japanese style or Western style. Here are some popular and recommended ways of eating them!

Recommended Satsumaimo dishes

Satsumaimo are commonly cooked simply to enhance their sweetness and fluffiness. For example, they can be simmered with soy sauce, sugar and lemon juice or cut into matchsticks and fried with butter and sesame seeds. They are also frequently cooked with rice or made into creamy soups. In Japan, they are in season from about October to January, so many restaurants feature them on their menus in the fall.

Yummy Satsumaimo sweets

Sweets made with Satsumaimo appear everywhere in Japan in the fall. The most common sweet is the Sweet Potato made with butter and/or fresh cream added to Satsumaimo paste, formed into a shape and baked, but there is a wide variety, including cakes and flans. Some Japanese Satsumaimo sweets that are recommended are "daigaku imo", chunks of skin-on Satsumaimo steam cooked with oil and sugar then deep fried till they are crispy, and "imo yokan", where Satsumaimo is strained through a fine-meshed sieve, boiled with milk and agar-agar, kneaded and cooled.

Enjoy sweet and tasty yakiimo!

One food that many Japanese yearn for in the fall and winter is "yakiimo". It is a simple dish of Satsumaimo that is thoroughly washed and baked over a long period of time either on stone, in an oven, on a fire of fallen leaves or on charcoal. The moist and fluffy texture and melt-in-your-mouth sweetness are outstanding!

Where to buy yakiimo

Where can the sweet and tasty yakiimo be purchased in Japan? In anime and manga, there are often scenes of vehicles, such as trucks, moving around and selling them, but these vehicles are becoming rare, so if you see one, be sure to take advantage! The truck will be moving slowly, so ask them to stop and tell them the quantity and size of the yakiimo that you want. There are also shops specializing in yakiimo, and they can also be purchased at supermarkets, Don Quixote, and Lawson Store 100 among other places.

Recommended! GINZA Tsubo-Yakiimo

There are many yakiimo shops around Japan, but GINZA Tsubo-Yakiimo in the Ginza district of Tokyo is especially popular and highly recommended. At GINZA Tsubo-Yakiimo, the Satsumaimo are cooked in a unique style called "tsubo yakiimo" using specially ordered pots called "tsubo". They are heated by charcoal over a long period of time at a low temperature in the pots so that the skin is crunchy and the meat is sweet and has a viscous texture. There is a selection of "Marugoto (756 JPY)", a whole large yakiimo; "Hanbun (378 JPY)", half a yakiimo; and "Chiisai-no (270 JPY)", a quarter of a yakiimo. There is space to eat on the premises.

Recommended! GINZA Tsubo-Yakiimo

GINZA7 Bldg. 1F, 7-6-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Satsumaimo are not only tasty, but are also full of nutrients including fibers. Be sure to try these uniquely Japanese sweet potatoes!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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