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All round sweet potatoes

Available in at least three colors, cream, red-orange and purple, the sweet potato or in Indonesian, ubi or ubi jalar (creeping tuber) is a potential staple alternative in many regions in Indonesia. The people of Central Java and Irian Jaya even call sweet potato the stuff of life. One of the sweetest varieties is the Ubi Cilembu from West Java.

Discussing sweet potatoes is interesting. My Peruvian friend said in her country, sweet potatoes are used daily and people enjoy them very much. Well, sweet potatoes are indeed globetrotters and are native in South America.

Whereas, the South Americans enjoy sweet potatoes cooked, steamed or grilled, we sometimes enjoy them raw. The rujak serut ceremony, is one that requires seven kinds of fruit and sweet potato combinations.

For example, when families celebrate their daughter's seventh month's pregnancy, a grated rujak serut is performed for the expectant mother. The event is joyful with relatives and friends gathering to watch the rujak serut made by elderly relatives. Sometimes, they don't want the rujak too spicy.

Others advise to omit pineapple from rujak because they say it could cause miscarriage.

The expectant mother then invites her husband to help serve the rujak to the guests. If the guests think it's "too spicy" it is believed the mother will give birth to a baby boy. If the response is "too sweet" it is believed to be a baby girl.

The seventh month rujak ceremony is different in many areas. An interesting one is the Betawi ceremony.

South Kalimantan has interesting purple colored ubi (oubee) used in many dishes and Irian Jaya harvests large purple-colored ubi. Sweet potatoes vary in size from small finger-length tubers to giant ones.

Ubi water content also varies. Some contain 70 percent water. Others only 50 percent, making it popular. The quality of ubi is deciphered by its skin.

Pale-skinned ubi is mostly watery whereas more distinctive-colored ones, whether yellow, pink or purple are less so and more suitable for cooking because of its chunkier consistency, being best for baking and mashing.

Ubi is remarkable for its sugar content reaching 3 to 6 percent, which can increase depending on how it's stored. Ubi is usually stored for about a week after harveste. The sugar content also increases by cooking it.

Ubi is very versatile, a great accompaniment to meat or fish dishes. Sliced and fried it is an enjoyable snack. Coarsely or finely grated it is a great item for sweet and sour, and chili dishes such as rujak serut from East Java.

It can be grated into pancake batter, along with sliced apple. This pancake is reminiscent of Dutch cuisine. "Pankuk Ubi Merah" is sprinkled with powdered sugar.

In Central Java, sweet potato is incorporated into porridge called biji salak or candil.

Sweet potato is steamed or boiled then mixed with tapioca flour in a 1:1 ratio into a dough, formed into marble sized balls (called candil) or rather long, (2 centimeter) pointed pieces (called biji salak, or snakeskin fruit pits) and immersed in boiling water.

When they float to the surface, the balls are ready and put in distilled, cold water to become solid. Served in a sweet coconut sauce, the chewy balls are teatime porridge favorites or served at certain selamatans.

Another yummy concoction is kolak (koulaq). Large chunks or cubes of raw, sweet potato are cooked in a thick, coconut-milk sauce, sweetened with palm sugar and accompanied with pine leaves.

Sweet potato is also eaten raw in many parts of Indonesia. In Bogor, sweet potato is thinly sliced. It is an important ingredient in asinan buah-buahan, or fruit pickle, one of Bogor's delicious fruit salads.

But sweet potato is more than a great ingredient for sweet snacks. According to many health food capacities such as Jean Carper, the author of many health-food books, sweet potato is a potent source of the antioxidant beta carotene, which deters macular degeneration.

The young leaves of sweet potato are also used as a vegetable in many regional dishes. In Eastern Java, sweet potato leaves are made into a coconut-milk broth. Sometimes sweet potato leaves are cooked and eaten with a fiery sambal. Sweet potato plants picked for their leaves tend to have smaller and less tender tubers.

Eating habits in Indonesia differ from region to region. In Java or Sumatra, sweet potato is mostly eaten as a sweet dish, however people in North Sulawesi prefer their sweet potato savory. Sweet potato on Eastern islands is a staple.

A favored accompaniment to boiled or steamed sweet potato is various sambal. For instance, sambal terasi, sambal with smoked fish, or sambal tomat, chopped tomatoes in finely-ground chili.

Like other tubers, sweet potato is also made into chips. Fried, the chips are seasoned with salt.

Another snack is grated sweet potato fried crispy. Make a caramel sauce of brown sugar until it forms a hairy texture. Mix in the fried sweet potato. After slightly cooled, form small balls known as kremes (crunchy). A typical snack in Jakarta.

Sweet potato gives people a living for those coming in from villages, seeking fortune in big cities. Pushcarts of fried ubi (sweet potato), singkong (cassava) and pisang (banana) are everywhere.

Near large building sites, even at Jakarta's Golden Triangle, the vendors enjoy a modest profit. If they save, the money can be used to build a house in their hometown.

According to history (On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McGee) the sweet potato is native to Central America, but may have spread to Polynesia before the arrival of Westerners.

Columbus brought ubi to Europe and by the end of the 15th Century, it was established in China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian regions, including Indonesia.

Have a bowl of cold water on hand when peeling and slicing sweet potatoes, or put drops of a souring agent on slices to prevent browning.

Top mashed white potato on your favorite casserole. Red-orange sweet potato (ubi merah) has a sweeter taste compared than other colors, and better for sweet foods or accompanying sweet-sour fish dishes.

When grilling over charcoal, cover small potatoes (do not peel) with hot ashes. When done, peel and spread butter on them. Delicious sprinkled with parmesan or dipped into sweet-chili sauce.

Avoid wrinkled sweet potatoes or those that have sprouts - they are less sweet. Sometimes large-sized sweet potatoes taste blander. Store in a cool, dry place and because they bruise easily, handle carefully.

1 Comment:

  Air Ambulance

7:41 PM

thank you for shearing your great article keep it up