When I was a kid, I often heard older people scolding their not-too-studious children and telling them off by saying, “Magtanim ka na lang ng kamote (Go plant sweet potatoes instead)!” To contextualize, it meant planting sweet potatoes was an activity for the uneducated with the implication that planting sweet potatoes was so simple that even the most simple of simpletons could do it. In short, sweet potatoes were for the poor and uneducated.
The bias is unfortunate because sweet potatoes are not only nutritious, they are also delicious especially the yellow variety. As a child, I loved kamote cue (skewered slices of sweet potatoes deep fried with brown sugar) and ginataang halo-halo but those were the only ways I ate sweet potatoes. I didn’t eat them simply boiled, I never knew anyone who cooked them ala French fries (except Max’s restaurant) and they didn’t appear in main courses or in side dishes.
The First World is just discovering sweet potatoes and sweet potato recipes have mushroomed in cookbooks, food blogs, newspapers and magazines. And this sweet potato explosion benefits me tremendously because I am learning new ways to cook this root crop that has got to be among the cheapest and most widely available fresh produce in any Philippine market.
The photo of the fingerling sweet potato appetizer in the Healthy Eats section was actually my second attempt at making it. The first time, I made the mistake of peeling the sweet potatoes before boiling them. And they almost boiled into the water. To salvage them, I scooped them out carefully, dumped them into a bowl, added butter and cream, and turned them into mashed sweet potatoes.
And making mashed sweet potatoes is not exactly the same as making mashed potatoes. Sweet potatoes are starchier so (1) they need more butter and cream (or milk) to acquire a light texture; (2) they acquire a chewy texture faster with over-handling and (3) they need to be salted differently to balance the sweetness.
When those three things are done correctly, mashed sweet potatoes are a wonder to behold. The bright yellow color makes the dish more visually palatable. The sweetness brings out the salty aspect of the meat or seafood dish that it is paired with. And because sweet potatoes contain more starch than potatoes, they are more filling. Truly delicious.