Daigaku Imo (Glazed Sweet Potatoes)

Daigaku Imo

Aside from learning new things, another reason why I love traveling is because it reinforces and reminds me of the things I already know. Take these Daigaku Imo for example. They’re made with no more than three ingredients, and yet there’s something magical about devouring a paper cone filled with these simple sweet morsels on a crisp autumn day.

Made with freshly harvested fall sweet potatoes, Daigaku Imo (大学芋), or “university potatoes”, takes on a crunchy outer shell, which harbors a pillowy, almost creamy interior. Each piece is glazed in a sweet syrup that gives it a glossy sheen, and a sprinkle of toasty sesame seeds finishes it off. If you’re wondering what sweet potatoes have to do with higher-learning institutions, these were a popular snack in universities during the earlier part of the last century, hence the name. It makes sense too, what college student wouldn’t want a tasty snack, packed with enough calories to get them through an all-nighter.

Daigaku Imo from Asakusa

I came across this lovely specimen after an afternoon spent wandering through Kappabashi, Tokyo’s kitchenware district. They came from a little stand near Sensoji Temple with a line going around the block.

For my version I used honey out of convenience, but as it turns out, it also makes a wonderful flavor compliment to the nutty sweet potatoes and sesame. I also added some sesame oil to the frying oil to give it just a bit more toasted sesame umph.

Daigaku Imo

1 pound satsuma imo (red skin, yellow flesh sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
vegetable oil for frying
1 teaspoon sesame oil
mild honey
toasted sesame seeds

Add the satsuma imo to a pot large enough to fit all of them in one layer. Cover the potatoes in vegetable oil, then add the sesame oil. Turn the heat on to medium high and fry them. until they are medium brown on one side. Flip them over and continue frying until they are dark brown and have a thick crunchy shell.

Transfer the fried potatoes to a large metal bowl and drizzle a copious amount of honey on top. You need to work quickly as the residual heat from the potatoes is needed to caramelize the honey. Toss the potatoes to give them an even coating of honey, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Black sesame seeds look better, but I only had white ones.

Serve immediately, but be careful, they’re hot!

Note: While you normally don’t add things to the oil when it’s cold, these big pieces of potato need some time at a lower temperature so they cook all the way through. Since potatoes aren’t very porous, they don’t have the problem of absorbing too much oil you would have if you were to do the same thing with something breaded for instance.

  • Ho Alison

    I had this recently at a Korean restaurant and loved it so much! It seems the stars are aligned, thanks for the recipe! :D

  • http://twitter.com/sugarbardiva davina

    This looks so appetizing! Thanks for the recipe. I must try this because I’m sure my whole sweet potato-loving family will love it. If you didn’t use honey, what would have been used instead? x

    • Anonymous

      It’s usually made with “mizuame” (水飴) which is a thick sweetener kind of
      like corn syrup, but it could also be made with caramelized sugar, or
      maltose should work as well.

  • http://millysminikitchen.wordpress.com/ Millys Mini Kitchen

    mmmm, this looks lovely! We have an obsession with sweet potatoes at the moment so it will go down a treat.

  • http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com Kalynskitchen

    These look like they would be completely addictive. I have a nephew who’s living in Japan for a few years and I’m hoping to visit him next summer so maybe I can try them myself!

  • http://www.spinachtiger.com Spinachtiger

    Is it redundant to say this looks so simple, yet so exquisite in flavors. I hate the “candied” sweet potatoes here, always thinking they deserve more. I love this recipe.

  • Peter G

    I’m really loving this sweet potato dish Marc…so simple yet very, very tasty! I’m sure the honey enhances the natural sweetness of the potato!

  • Stickygooeycreamychewy

    These look fantastic! I actually have a few of those Japanese sweet potatoes in my fridge from my CSA, and was trying to figure out what to do with them.

  • Sharlene

    Looks amazing! I’ll definitely be making this sometime soon. Perfect afternoon snack!

  • http://www.abalancedkitchen.com Mindy

    Marc, I’m so pleased I discovered your blog through PFB2010. It’s my new favourite.

  • http://www.obentomommy.blogspot.com Aki

    This brought memories of the ones my mom used to make in my childhood. I had them recently in a night market in Taipei – it was just as good!!! But, I had never seen one with honey – i will definitely try! I remember my mom used to struggle with the right “point” where the sugar would caramelize (not too sticky, not too hard). BTW, I just love your blog!

  • Lagolden

    This looks great! Can I substitute North American sweet potaoes (not yams) for this?

    • Anonymous

      As long as they’re the yellow starchy variety I think they should work. I
      don’t think the orange fleshed ones would work to well.

  • Lagolden

    This looks great! Can I substitute North American sweet potaoes (not yams) for this?

  • Kat

    I had this the first time when I was in Japan last year I liked them so much! A Japanese person explained to me that they were ‘University Potatoes’ I never understood why though until now

  • http://theactorsdiet.wordpress.com/ The Actor’s Diet

    i don’t know why i rarely use honey with sweet potatoes (i usually go with brown sugar or maple) – seems like a no brainer!!! great seeing you speak at foodbuzz – you’re in a little bit of the video i just posted on my blog!

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  • Midori17

    I wonder if Okinawan sweet potatoes would taste good prepared this way…

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Great idea! I bet the purple color would look stunning.

  • dewi

    i wonder if i could export my satsu maimo (purple one) originally from my field since it easy to get in my country but we dont eat that much.

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  • Rob

    Thanks for the recipe. I was preparing a Japanese vegetarian dinner tonight for my folks (miso glazed eggplant, cucumber and bean sprout pickle, rice) and found a big orange sweet potato chunk in the fridge. We were out of honey, so I mixed through some brown sugar and soy sauce at the end, garnished it with shredded green onion, and served it up as an extra side dish. None left!

  • Keli

    when I was a kid, my mom would make a dish with imo no me. It was long pink potato shoots and it was always available from the “yasaisan”. Do you know what kind of potato shoots it was. Better yet, have you ever heard of it. No one, even in my family remembers it, probably because they didn’t like the texture of the cooked shoots.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!