I have introduced you nagaimo yam in my previous okonomiyaki blog – it is the long potato-like vegetable that becomes watery-slimy when grated. In this photo you cann see here a very fresh, whole nagaimo yam. Looks like a baseball bat. The skin is thin and rough. The cut surface shows moist, wet and somewhat bubbly appearance.
Nagaimo, which originally came from China to Japan at the beginning of our civilization, is easily available here in America at Chinese food stores. We enjoy nagaimo in grated form in okonomiyaki kinds of preparations (as a binder) or eat it raw julienne in salad (the texture is crisp, but slightly slimy). Yamaimo does not have much flavor, but it appears from time to time on our table mainly because of its “texture” and nutritional benefit. Nagaimo is rich in the digestion enzyme, amylaze, and in vitamin C, potassium, iron and dietary fiber.
Before going further with my yam story, let me clarify the confusion between the Japanese/Chinese yam and sweet potato sometimes labeled as “yam” here in America. Our Japanese yam, a tropical and sub-tropical plant, belongs to Dioscoreaceae family. These yams come in several varieties and their size, shape and texture vary greatly from watery-slimy, gooey to very gooey. The skin of yam is rough and flesh is mostly white. On the other hand, the sweet potato “yam” belongs to morning glory family. The skin is smooth and color of flesh can be white, yellow, orange or purple-red.
The other day to my great and joyful surprise, I found icho-imo yam at my local Japanese food store, Sunrise Mart, in New York City. This yam as you can see in the below photo is named after its gingko leaf-like shape – icho , gingko (tree/leaf) and imo, yam. It was a surprise to spot it because this yam also has a texture somewhat alien or unimaginable to many Americans.
Check out its distinctive texture on my next blog.