Japanese Imo Yams


Yams and sweet potatoes are favorite Thanksgiving vegetables, especially in the south.   Sweet potatoes have white flesh and light skin, while the yams we often see in super markets have orange flesh and skin.  In any case, no matter the name used, the healthy properties of this vegetable have been gaining much attention, especially the Japanese Imo yam variety which has white flesh and red skin.

In his book Healthy at 100, John Robbins discusses how the Imo yam is a key contributing factor to the well known longevity in the Okinawan culture.  On his television show, Dr. Mehmet Oz has noted this yam as a super food.

In Japan, the Imo yam is often steamed, used in miso soups or fried as a tempura; it is even used in some sweet dishes.  With the arrival of an Autumn crop from Sage Mountain Farms in San Diego, I have been using it in a variety of ways.  One of my favorite preparations is a combination of the yam with Asian long beans and coconut curry.  Other dishes I prepare are: Imo yam salad, candied Imo yam with caramelized ponzu and Imo yam & coconut cakes.  A favorite with my family is the featured recipe, Japanese Imo Yams with Miso Sauce.

While different from the yam typically used for a holiday dinner, the tender sweetness of Imo yam adds appropriate diversity to the traditional cuisine.  Delicious when simply prepared and, at the same time, worthy of the holiday table.  A perfect super food to enhance both health and tradition.

Japanese Imo Yams with Lemon Miso Sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 cup sweet onions, sliced thin

1 medium Japanese Imo yam, sliced into 3/8 inch thick slices,

steamed until soft

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar

2 tablespoons mirin

1 1/2 tablespoons tamari

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 cups water from steamer

1 1/4 cups unpasteurized red miso

2 bunches red Russian kale

In a 10 inch skillet on medium heat, cook the oil and onions until the edges become clear.  Add the steamed yams, then brown rice vinegar, mirin, tamari and lemon juice. Cover and cook until onions are clear.  In a separate container, mix the water and miso until it it is smooth then add to the yams.  Turn down to a low simmer and cook until the miso thickens to a gravy-like consistency.  Wash and stem the kale, slice into strips and steam for 2 minutes.  To serve, place a little kale on the plate, center a yam disc on top.  Repeat.  Top with miso and onion gravy.  Serve hot.


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