All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Daigaku-imo / candied Japanese sweet potato

My introduction to daigaku-imo was school lunch at elementary school. Although the name daigaku-imo literally means "university potato," this candied sweet potato is popular with students of all ages, and is also a popular deli item with both youngsters and grownups. The sweet and slightly salty coating makes you come back for more of this snack-like dish. Traditionally, satsumaimo sweet potato is first deep-fried and dipped in the candy coating prepared separately. What follows is a simplified method of sauteing satsumaimo with a somewhat large amount of oil in a frying pan and adding the candy coating ingredients to the same pan.

1/2 of recipe:
234 calories; 1.7g protein; 4.3g fat; 47.0g carbohydrate; 82mg sodium (with 50% reduced-sodium soy sauce; 158-176mg with regular soy sauce); 0mg cholesterol; 3.0g fiber


1 medium (approx. 300g) satsumaimo sweet potato (258g in photo)
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp oil

For candy coating
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp water
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp rice vinegar

Toasted black sesame seeds (not in photo)


Rangiri diagonally cut satsumaimo, and soak in water for 10 minutes.

Change water once or twice while soaking.


Meanwhile, mix water, soy sauce and rice vinegar for candy coating, and set aside.


In a frying pan, heat oil.


Drain satsumaimo, and towel-dry surface.

Place satsumaimo in a single layer in frying pan, cover, and steam saute on medium low for 7-8 minutes.

Flip satsumaimo pieces from time to time. (Cooked parts of satsumaimo flesh will be brighter yellow.)


When satsumaimo is cooked through (a skewer or toothpick smoothly goes through), raise heat to medium high, and cook until satsumaimo surface turns slightly golden.

Flip satsumaimo pieces often during this process.


Remove frying pan from heat, and wipe off excess oil with paper towel.


Sprinkle brown sugar over satsumaimo, and swirl in soy sauce mixture.

Put pan back on stove, and cook until liquid is reduced.
Flip satsumaimo pieces often so all  surfaces come in contact with candy coating.


Serve on plate or in bowl, and sprinkle toasted black sesame seeds.

  • This tastes good hot and at room temperature.
  • Satsumaimo can first be microwaved to cook it through (several minutes) and then fried to shorten the cooking time. Make sure to wipe off moisture on satsumaimo before frying to prevent hot oil from spattering.
  • Adding rice vinegar prevents crystallization (hardening) of sugar, which in turn prevents individual pieces from sticking together.
  • Some people prefer not to add soy sauce and enjoy the "straight" sweet taste.
  • Daigaku-imo prepared with soy sauce is often eaten as part of a meal.
  • The above candy coating is quite sweet as part of a meal. To soften the sweetness, cut back on brown sugar by half (1/2 tbsp) and use 1/2-1 tbsp mirin. Mirin is about one-third as sweet as sugar and the taste does not linger as much as sugar’s, giving the dish a light taste.
  • For fat content calculation, the oil absorption rate of satsumaimo is 3% of its weight (7.74g, roughly 2 tsp, in the above case) when deep-fried without any coating.
  • Actual calorie, carbohydrate and sodium figures would be somewhat lower than those listed above, as some portion of the candy coating remains in the frying pan.
  • The daigaku in the name literally means "university." In the early 20th century, a shop in front of the University of Tokyo (or a shop in the Kanda district in Tokyo) began selling this satsumaimo snack and it became popular with students, and the snack got its name.

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