My mom loves sweet potatoes but doesn’t care for mashed potatoes. For that reason, during the holidays, I focus attention on a sweet potato dish. Rest assured, there will be other carbs on the menu, most likely noodles and/or rice.
The tofurkey adventure last week allowed me to try out an easy sweet potato on my husband before I presented it to my mom. I adore sweet potatoes for their natural sweetness, which is best coaxed out via baking. Roasted in their jackets (skin on) sweet potatoes are favorite snack in many parts of Asia. In Vietnam, they’re also enjoyed fried into fritters with shrimp (banh tom) and in sweet soups (che).
For this side dish, I bought garnet sweet potatoes, selecting ones that were roughly the same size so they all cooked at the same rate. I baked them in moderately high heat and refrigerated them for a few days. Then I cut them up into big chunks and quickly sauteed them in fragrant virgin coconut oil, curry leaf from the garden and finely chopped ginger. A light sprinkling of coarse Maldon salt added a savory-sweet punch.
It was a cinch. Once the potatoes were cooked, they held in the fridge – which firms them up and makes them much easier to handle. The only dramatic part was the curry leaf, which spit and popped in the hot wok. That is its nature. If you don’t have curry leaf (sold at Indian markets), ginger alone will do; or, add a little chopped cilantro at the end for spark.
What’s with virgin coconut oil? It lends a tropical note to food. My mother has a super soft spot for coconut-laden foods and coconut oil embodies that in fragrance and taste. A small amount was all I needed. Virgin coconut oil is sold at many health food markets but I bought mine at Trader Joe’s. The refined coconut oil doesn’t have a coconut taste, which is great for all-purpose cooking. Here, I wanted coconut essence.
Sweet Potato with Ginger and Curry Leaf
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 large sweet potatoes, each about 1 pound (450 g) and similarly shaped
- Rounded 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
- 1 branch curry leaf (optional)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- Maldon or other coarse salt
- Wash the sweet potatoes, trim their ends, then put them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425F (220C / mark 7). Bake for about 1 hour until they feel just tender in the middle when poked with a fork; baking depends on the shape of the sweet potato. There will be stuff oozing out of the ends. Set aside and cool completely. Refrigerate up to 3 days. These firm up during chilling so it’s good to work in advance.
- Cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks. If the skin falls off, discard those pieces. Otherwise leave them for texture.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat half of the coconut oil over medium heat. Add half of the curry leaves and ginger. Lower the heat to sizzle and become aromatic. When the curry leaf starts popping, add half of the sweet potato. Raise the heat to medium-high or high, then cook to coat with seasonings and warm through. Transfer to a serving dish and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and serve.
What is your favorite easy way to eat sweet potatoes?
P.S. If you love sweet potatoes, check out this new booklet by Scott Hocker; he's a gifted writer and friend. The recipe collection is split between savory and sweet.