When I first encountered this “snack” in Iwate my brain translated them as “potato college”…which isn’t quite right for Daigaku Imo, but was funny. I have since come to regard them as more or less the Japanese New Year version of those marshmallow covered yam casseroles Midwesterners often eat at Christmas.

But less marshmallow, and the Japanese sweet potato is white.

As usual, I started out with Namiko Chen’s Just One Cookbook’s recipe. But the picture is the actual daigaku imo Tokyo Boy made this year….and we didn’t have black sesame seeds so they look sort of plain, but were the perfect mix of slightly sweet and salty. This all came about because Trader Joe’s had Japanese sweet potato (Called “murasaki” on the label which is Japanese for purple. The outer skin of the sweet potatoes are purplish) bags on display.

The special ingredient is the Japanese sweet potato (or black sesame seeds) but regular sweet potatoes do just as well.

  • 3 or 4 large sweet potatoes
  • About 1/4 cup canola oil for pan frying
  • 5 tbsp brown sugar (or white or honey)
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp rice vinegar
  • optional: 1 tsp toasted black sesame seeds

Wash/scrub sweet potatoes. Cut them into desired size/bit size pieces. You’ll see in the picture Tokyo Boy kind of made them into fries. Usually daigaku imo is cut on the diagonal as you rotate the potato in a technique called Rangiri. Put the sweet potato pieces into a bowl and cover with water. Soak for about 15 minutes to get rid of excess starch. Take potatoes out to dry.

Meanwhile heat oil to a shimmer. Pan or shallow fry potatoes to desired softness/golden color. Either get rid of oil or use another pan to put the sugar, soy sauce and vinegar in and heat together with about 1 tbsp of water to make a syrup. Add potatoes and swirl them around to coat. Remove from pan, sprinkle with optional black sesame seeds and enjoy!