The second time I flew to Japan, in 2008, I remember seeing a man by a little truck in one of the touristic areas that we visited.
It was one of the numerous viewing points of the mighty Mount Fuji in the gorgeous area of Izu and a very fitting backdrop to such an old form of treat.
The rear of the car was open and a sweet smell emerged from it attracting passers-by. I remember asking my husband what that delicious smell was and I also remember my disbelieve when he responded that it was the smell of roasting sweet potatoes. Thinking of those orange ones they sell in London’s supermarkets that taste more of pumpkin than sweet potato, I could not believe it.
I also remember the first time I tried the humble roasted sweet potato. “Wow.” I thought “how can a vegetable taste so good? how can nature achieve such a complex flavour?”
I have since been quite a few times back to Japan and in the same way that I have noticed the increase in height in younger generations (at 1.70 m, I am no longer the tallest woman around), I have also noticed the scarcity of this type of business. In fact, during my last visit, I saw that the greengrocer who used to roast them, nearby my in-laws no longer did.
And so I recently started my own search for the right type of sweet potato in London.
I first tried Morrisons, the supermarket… They have a red sweet potato which, unfortunately, is orange inside and, therefore, tastes of pumpkin!
I noticed the Japan Centre sells the right type but so unjustifiably expensive that one refuses to buy.
So, after a few Arabic shops around Camden that came close enough, I found a relatively new Korean Shop on the top of Tottenham Court Road (HMart MINI, 115 Tottenham Court Rd, London W1T) where for 65p I got the perfect sweet potato.
I roasted it for 50 minutes, gas mark 4 and after piercing it with a knife to make sure it was cooked, proceeded to enjoy it!
Photography by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Text by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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