Preparing one of Japan’s favorite snacks is a slow and easy process.
Japan loves sweet potatoesespecially in the fall when it is in season. The most popular way to enjoy them is with baked sweet potatoes or yaki-imo as they are called in Japanese, but Japan also has an alternative sweet snack called hoshi imoor dried sweet potato.
As steadfast lovers of both sweets and traditional Japanese cuisine, hoshi-imo quite often appears on our shopping list. Although we love hoshi-imo, we are often surprised at how expensive they are. For example, during our last visit to the grocery store, the store had the following packages on offer, z hoshi-imo made of extremely sweet bani harkua sweet potatoes costing almost 1,000 yen ($7.20) and even more regular varieties costing around $400 a pack.
Meanwhile, you can get a whole beni haruka sweet potato for around 300 yen. So we started to wonder if we could just make our own hoshi-imo, and it turned out to be really easyprocess! Other than the sweet potatoes, all you need is a steamer, a pair of cloth work gloves or a hand towel, and a hanging drying net like the ones you can get at Daiso or other stores for 100 yen.
Once you have all this, the next thing you need to do is check the weather repositoryrt. To turn a sweet potato into hoshi-imo, you’ll have to let it dry for three days, maybe even a week. Of course, the more sun, the faster the process will go, so we started making our hoshi-imo when the forecast called for three days of sunny weather.
The first step in the kitchen is steam sweet potatoes, skin on, over low heat for one to two hours. You’ll know they’re ready when you can smoothly and easily insert a toothpick or skewer into the potato.
Then it’s time to remove the skin. You’ll want to do this right away because when the potatoes cool down again, the skin will be harder to remove. Of course, the fact that you’ve just spent an hour or two steaming means the sweet potatoes will be hot, which is why you’ll want to use gloves or a towel. The skin will basically peel off right away, but you don’t want to make the mistake we did of using a plastic bag as a kitchen substitute and burn your hands.
▼ Burning hand pain = blurry pictures
You’ll have to go on cut sweet potatoes into strips about 1 centimeter (0.4 in) thick.. Fortunately, it’s better to wait for the potatoes to cool down before you start slicing, which took about 30 minutes.
By the way, if you’re wondering if you can just peel raw sweet potatoes so you don’t have to worry about their heat, it’s not recommended. Steaming peeled potatoes makes them absorb too much water and make them soggy.
However, even with the skins left to steam, sweet potatoes become very soft in texture. Japanese sweet potatoes have a particularly high natural sugar content, so they caramelize when heated.
But with careful knife work, we managed to cut everything into strips, and then it was time put them in the drying net and play the waiting game.
As we mentioned above, it can take three to seven days for a sweet potato to dry.
The way you can tell if they’re ready is to take a piece and bend it lengthwise.
If it can be folded in half like this without crumbling or tearing…
…then it’s ready to eat!
So how did our portion taste? Okay. After three full days of drying, we had a stack of proper hoshi-imo, and that for a fraction of what it would cost us to buy that much ready-made in the store.
However, we have to admit that our hoshi-imo were not as sweet as the professionally prepared store-bought varieties. We’re not sure if it’s because they use higher quality potatoes than what we could get at the supermarket, have a more sophisticated drying setup, or if some other factors are at play.
The biggest difference, however, is how much time store-bought hoshi-imo saves. Preparing your own dried sweet potatoes doesn’t require a lot of active preparation time – setting up the steamer only takes a few seconds, and peeling and slicing are also fairly quick processes. However, from start to finish, you’re looking at about three hours from the time you start steaming until the sweet potato slices are netted, and at least three days later until they’re ready to eat.
On the other hand, there is some satisfaction in creating your own all-natural snacks, along with the unique slow life associated with the eventual reward of patience. Also, if you live in a part of the world where you have access to sweet potatoes but local stores don’t have hoshi-imo, waiting three days for them to dry is probably faster than waiting until your next trip to Japan. Oh, and if you want to make baked sweet potatoes instead, we have a new way to do that.