There’s nothing like the warmth of a freshly roasted sweet potato, so who wants to eat them cold? We do.

Just about everyone in Japan loves roasted sweet potatoes…in the fall. The demand for yaki-imo (as roasted sweet potatoes are called in Japanese) tends to go up as the outside temperature goes down, as biting into a freshly roasted sweet spud, perhaps purchased from one of Japan’s roving yaki-imo vendor trucks, is both delicious and warming.

So when our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa was out and about in Osaka, getting fried by the merciless midday summer sun, and spotted a vending machine offering hiyashi, or “chilled” yaki-imo, he thought it must be some sort of sweet potato-flavored cold drink or confectionary. But nope, when he took a closer look, he could see that the machine offers actual roasted sweet potatoes, but served cold!

As further proof of how popular sweet potatoes are in Japan, there are a couple of different varieties which foodies know by name. This machine was offering two types: Silk Sweet, which have a sugar content of about 8.8 percent (pre-roasted), and Beni Haruka, Japan’s sweetest sweet potatoes, with a sugar content of around 40 percent.

Seiji, not in the mood to suppress his sweet cravings, opted for a chilled Beni Haruka. The machine’s prices vary by the size of the potato, and he selected a 155-gram (5.5-ounce) one for 450 yen (US$3.25).

Seiji had half-expected the sweet potato to be ice-cold, but once he had it out of its packaging cylinder and was holding it in his hand, it turned out to be “chilled” in the same way that a vending machine soft drink is, as opposed to something from the freezer.

Seiji has had Beni Haruka before, and taking a bite, his taste buds were met with a familiar flavor (well, mostly familiar – we’ll get to that in a second). But the chilled sweet potato had a big surprise for him too: its texture and moistness.

Usually, the mouthfeel of yaki-imo isn’t that different from a baked potato’s. Eaten hot, they’re fluffy, flaky, and dry. But chill yaki-imo after they’re cooked, and they become moist, almost damp even, Seiji discovered, with a texture that reminded him of anko (sweet red bean jam).

Now, on a crisp/cold day in fall/winter, that lack of fluffy warmth would probably be a deal-breaker. In the middle of a blazing hot summer, though, Seiji had no complaints at all. Oh, and remember how we said the flavor was mostly familiar? That’s because the chilled yaki-imo’s moist texture supercharges its sweetness, making each juicy bite flavorful on a level Seiji had never experienced before with a roasted sweet potato.

“It’s like a whole new world has been opened up to me,” Seiji says. He plans on making chilled roasted sweet potatoes a regular part of his summer snack schedule from now on, and recommends you do the same.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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