One might not think of sweet potatoes when they think of Japanese food, however there are currently between 40-60 varieties of sweet potatoes which are currently grown in Japan. Here are some of the most popular and famous found throughout the country:
Beni azuma is the most popular type of sweet potato found throughout supermarkets everywhere in Japan. It is characterised by its red skin, and quintessential sweet potato look. It is a firmer type of sweet potato, and a little less sweet than other varieties making it perfect for roasting or deep frying for tempura.
Anno imo is a variety of potato that was originally brought over from Indonesia. These types of potatoes have become hugely popular in recent years due to their incredibly sweet taste and rich, sticky texture. Best enjoyed as yaki-imo or roasted sweet potato, eating a baked anno imo is like eating a sweet dessert. Due to their almost sugar-like sweetness they are often used for making sweets like cakes, cookies and even in sweet potato flavoured drinks like yaki-imo (baked sweet potato) lattes.
Beni haruka is a relatively new variety of potato which quickly gained popularity. It is slightly chewier than anno imo but still boasts a delightfully strong sweetness. Beni harukaare unique in that after harvesting they are stored for a short while, which is what gives them their characteristic chewy texture. The shape and beautiful red and orange colours of beni haruka also make it a perfect potato for yaki-imo (baked sweet potato), or roasted potato.
The silk sweet (pronounced "shiruku suito") is also a relatively new variety of sweet potato. As the name suggests, it is very sweet whilst also having a silky, smooth mouthfeel. When baked, silk sweets become soft and fluffy due to their naturally higher water content than other varieties.
Perhaps not as well-known, the quick sweet (pronounced "kuiku suito") is an interesting variety of sweet potato. Named after how fast it is to prepare, the quick sweet can be easily cooked in a microwave and still retain its sweet flavour. This is due to a special starch which breaks down even at low temperatures. Quick sweet’s make a perfect snack when time is of the essence.
Murasaki imo (lit., purple potato) are dense, with a creamy texture whilst also retaining a subtle sweetness. Some varieties have white skin but once cut open, their purple core is revealed. When cooked, they become vibrant purple in colour and are full of antioxidants.
With so many to choose from and all of them incredibly tasty, why not try a Japanese sweet potato when you next get the chance? Bursting with vitamins, minerals and natural sweetness, they really are the best of both worlds when it comes to a healthy treat.
About the author:
Ailsa van Eeghen
Ailsa has been living in Japan since 2015 all the while enjoying the rich beauty of Kagoshima prefecture. She finds the most joy in exploring little villages, driving around the countryside and exploring the lesser known parts of Japan. Keenly interested in Japan’s regional diversity, you can often find her at michi-no-eki admiring all the local produce. You can find more of her travels and deep dives into Japanese culture on her Instagram @daysofailsa where she writes about her life in Japan.