Sweet Potato Mania: Japan’s Top Fall Flavor

Daigaku Imo photo from flickr by taylorandayumi

As you may know, in the USA fall is all about the pumpkin spice! Food, drinks, candles– folks even started to make jokes about things that might be but should NOT be pumpkin-spicy . In Japan, though pumpkin flavors are making inroads — the fall food mania is more often about the roasted sweet potato and  purple sweet potato!

Yakiimo Flaming Sweet Potato Trucks!

The days get shorter, the nights get longer and flaming trucks drive around the city selling wood fire roasted sweet potatoes or Yakiimo.

I mean it– trucks with wood fired ovens in them drive around Japan with FLAMES coming out of the back of the truck. Truly an “only in Japan” sight! You can even hear a traditional “yakiimo vendor song”, piped out over a loud speaker from trucks and push carts, calling the sweet potato fans to gather around and warm up as the year winds down.

Sweet potato truck, Photo from Flickr by Mark Shaiken
Sweet potato truck, Photo from Flickr by Mark Shaiken

I am a personal fan of this lovely song and animation by Simone White— about the sweet potato man– more so than the loud speaker sales call from the wandering trucks!

Try for yourself as you explore Japan. The Yakiimo carts and trucks are more common in the evenings, as a snack on the way home from work. Keep your eyes open for flaming trucks tooling around the length and breadth of Japan.

Sweet Potato Inspired Snacks

Getting your hands around a piping hot whole roasted potato is not the only way to enjoy this fall flavor. Check out these 3 snacking-junk-food favorites that will give pumpkin spice a run for its money… You can pick up yours at most convenience stores.

purple-potato-ice-cream pretzkinoko-purple

  1. Murasaki Imo (purple potato ice cream) by Haagen Das
  2. Pretz Sweet Potato Sticks
  3. Cookie Purple Potato Chocolate Mushrooms- A seasonal variation on  chocolate cookie snack “Kinoko No Yama” (which translates as Mushroom Mountain)

If you are exploring Japan in the fall these sweet potato treats will make great food souvenirs in addition to this list of great gifts to take back home.

Taking it to the next level

Walk on the wild side and pick up some sweet potato Kit Kats and bake them?! Check out YouTuber Elly Awesome as she gives them a try and yes– bakes them in the oven!!!

More Traditional Treats

One other Sweet potato tradition in the fall and winter– a sticky sweet snack called Daigaku Imo or University Potatoes. Say What? What do sweet potato snacks have to do with university?

These treats are made with freshly harvested fall sweet potatoes, Daigaku Imo (大学芋), or “university potatoes”, have a crunchy shell, and a soft interior. They are glazed in a sweet sugar syrup and finished off with toasted sesame seeds. These snacks were a popular cheap treat in universities for more than 100 years. What college student wouldn’t want a hearty snack, with enough calories to live through winter exam season!?

You can even try and make these at home yourself for a great winter treat.

Know some other sweet potato treats we should keep a look-out for?

Put ’em in the comments below!