Friday, February 02, 2007

I am what, a Yam, or am I a sweet potato?

I make no secret of growing up in the lands of the Inca empire... land of potatoes. Growing up there allowed for an unbelievable number of potatoes to eat... purple ones, purple and white ones, starchy ones, slimy ones, and every single one of them yummy.


I might even say that potatoes are what made me love food so much, because the slimy one in a dish called fritada is probably one of my favorite Andean indulgences.

Now, after I moved to the USA and found what seems to be a whole three different varieties of potatoes... I lost what knowledge I had, as it was not required, though I was always aware that there just was not the variety I was used to... until one dish was introduced to my family... and it became a Thanksgiving staple.

I have no idea what the dish is called, though I refer to it as "Zun's potatoes" (Zun being a name of unknown origins that my Grandfather gave to my Grandmother) though we know that a chef friend who helped us care for Zun made it for her and that is how it came to be a family dish.

So, I read about 100 or so food blogs all ranging in subject from candy to veganism, they are all interesting to me. But one struck me recently and we had one of those comment conversations... as you may suspect, it was about sweet potatoes vs yams.

I was reading one of my favorite food blogs called Is that my buréka?, and his post was about "sweet potatoes confessions". What struck me first with his gorgeous pictures of these orange "spicy sweet potato tikki [patties]" was that that orange can only come from a yam, sweet potatoes have a delicate color that is much more like mashed potatoes (think Idaho here) with loads of butter. So I mentioned that they looked like yams to me in his comments, though I failed to admit that the patties looked fabulous! I also told him I was planning a post on the very dish I mentioned. However, because I am so hesitant to make blanket statements like that is a Yam, I became plagued with self doubt... are they really all that different?

So welcome to my Yin and Yang of the Yam vs Sweet potato debate in technicolor no less (sorry, not currently available in stereo).

The yin and yang of sweet potatoes and yams

I had actually been planning on a post of the sweet potato dish as far back as November, when I was on my diet and unable to eat "Zun's potatoes"... so I noted the recipe, which I had but could not find, from my cousin with every intention of making them post haste once I was able to ingest them with abandon, because that is how I like to eat them. with abandon.

So, the diet ended then the in-laws arrived and life took over and I finally got around to making them last week.

My day of making Zun's potatoes
So I went to my favorite market to get the supplies, and thought that I should get a couple of yams to compare them.

27 to 28 of 07 041
If you go to the Flickr page I have notes saying what is what. But those are the yams on the bottom.

They all sorta look alike though there is a bit more rough texture to the surface of the yams, barely, if you squint.

So I peeled them:
getting to know you, getting to know all about tubers

Aha, I knew that they were different colors. But perhaps the sweet potato takes on a more orange hue when cooked and I was still hesitant to say I had been right about the orange being a sign of a yam.

So I chopped everything up and put the sweet potatoes to boil
27 to 28 of 07 051

and the yams to roast after being coated in some sugar, salt, butter and oil
getting ready to roast before pureeing

While the sweet potatoes (5 medium and one regular potato - the Russet) were boiling I got out the ingredients. Here is where I admit that I could not find the recipe notes, but had to do this all based on recall. I am starting to think that I unintentionally did this on purpose because I am completely unable to follow a recipe.
But I got out what I knew was in the dish - some honey and cayenne pepper
Patagonia Honey - best honey, ever
and some things that I were not sure were in the dish but was going to put in anyway - butter and some half and half.
add ins

Now what I did remember is that the recipe called for 1/8 of a tsp of cayenne as a start. I put what I thought was an eighth each into two separate bowls so I could add it if I thought it needed more of it. I can't find an 1/8 teaspoon on my set now, and while it is possible it got separated and lost it is also possible that I used 1/4 in each bowl.

The yams were done first so I pureed them to a fabulous consistency
yams (a garnet and a jewel)

Then the sweet potatoes were ready and I pureed them and then added the ingredients
with add ins
and then used my hand mixer to puree it some more.

I added between 1/4 and 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne powder in the end and because I had both and it was lunchtime I made myself an all abandon root and tuber extravaganza even though someone told me it looked like baby... you can guess OK? It was a fabulous carb laden lunch.

The yin and yang of sweet potatoes and yams

For more information on the difference between a yam and a sweet potato;
go here
or here
or pick any of these

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3 comments:

Patricia Tryon said...

When I was growing up, I used to detest the appearance on our winter table of baked yams. Just -- old withered brown carcasses coming out of the oven with dry orange pulp the color (and approximate texture) of basketballs.

But your beautiful photos and text make me think I should give things some adult consideration.

Thanks so much for all this. It's a feast, Blair, an absolute feast :-)

burekaboy — said...

i yam very impressed :) LOL. i love the yin and yang look of the dish and the whole post you did.
well blair, i have to say, these varieties are not really commonly available here in my area [that i know of] but i don't dispute what you're saying. i do have to say that i have ONLY ever seen the variety i use called sweet potatoes or as they are called here "patates douces"; i actually added a link in my post about the difference between a yam and a sweet potato and the one i use definitely falls into the sweet potato category. in hindsight, i should have included a picture of the whole thing before i peeled and chopped it up. this whole issue is, as you mention, a long disputed one. perhaps the variety i use is a different type you don't have there. to be honest, i've never seen a sweet potato the colour you show. the white colour of it is surprising to me.

in any case, your pictures are great. thanks for commenting on my blog and including me in your post. had you not commented on my post, i'd never have known about your blog! keep up the good work and hope to see more of your cooking in the future.

nettie said...

it looks like you had fun making it and eating it eh?