Chilled baked sweet potatoes help beat summer heat

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A baked sweet potato served chilled at oimo lab. in Koto Ward, Tokyo

Sweet potatoes are regarded as a delicacy in Japan in autumn and winter, when they are often served fresh baked. They’re often piping hot, forcing customers to blow on them to get them cool enough to take a bite.

But the chilled version of baked sweet potatoes has recently gained popularity as a cool midsummer treat.

A banner reading “Chilled baked sweet potatoes, cold, sweet and delicious!” fluttered in the breeze in early August in front of the sweet potato shop known as oimo lab., located in Koto Ward, Tokyo.

Oimo lab. uses a baked potato called silk sweet, which is grown in Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, and is characterized by its moist texture and elegant sweetness.

The sweet potatoes at the shop sit overnight after coming out of the oven to bring out their natural sweetness and are then placed in a freezer.

Since the shop opened in 2018, the chilled treat has only been offered as a summer item and it is a popular seller this year as well.

“It has a concentrated flavor and feels smooth in the mouth,” said shop manager Koji Shimura.

“It tastes like ice cream right out of the freezer. It is popular not only with young women, but also with a wide range of people.”

Courtesy of Farmind Corp.
Farmind’s Hiyashi Amaimo

Chilled baked sweet potatoes are also available in retail stores. Tokyo-based fruit importer Farmind Corp. sells individually packaged Hiyashi Amaimo — or cold sweet potatoes — that need to be kept refrigerated. It sells them in various sizes, including half-cut easy-to-eat pieces.

“It’s perfect for breakfast or as a snack,” a Farmind spokesperson said. “It’s rich in fiber and popular among women for its beauty aspects and health benefits.”

FamilyMart Co. started selling chilled baked sweet potatoes around 2017. This season, it started selling them in limited quantities in early May, but quickly sold out by early June.

The fruit of many years of cultivar improvements has developed a chilled baked sweet potato that feels smooth on the taste buds.

Kazunori Taguchi, a senior researcher at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, said many previous varieties of sweet potatoes were dry and difficult to consume without the assistance of a beverage.

However, recent years have seen the appearance of varieties such as the Beniharuka, which is sweet, has a high sugar content and is sticky with a moist texture. They don’t become too firm when chilled and can be consumed when cold, he said.