Monday, January 23, 2006

Oven-baked yam crisps

I had a yam. I had it for 3 weeks, actually. Often - sometimes even twice a day - I would take it out of the vegetable basket, look at it, wonder what to do with it, and then put it back, just as undecided as before.

On one of those inspections, on a daring impulse, I decided to wash the grit off it. I dried it thereafter, patted it to let it know that it was not being ignored - and put it back out of sight. Back to Square One.

I looked my yam up on the Web (well, not MY yam in particular, but the family history of yams in general), and discovered that what most Americans refer to as "yam" is actually a variety of sweet potato with bright orange flesh. Yam, apparently, is not as commonly available in supermarkets in the US as most people might imagine - they are more likely to be found in ethnic food stores.

This was interesting information, but it didnt get me any closer to using my yam.
Then yesterday, in a do-or-die spirit of Enterprising Culinariness, I retrieved my long-suffering yam from its temporary-but-nearly-became-permanent home, determined to do something edible with it.

To that end, I peeled the darn thing... and got an unpleasant surprise because the texture of the yam was disgustingly slimy. And I mean REALLY slimy. Think chopped okra washed in warm water - yes, THAT slimy. (Maybe I shouldnt have peeled it? I dunno!) I very nearly let the whole lot slither into the bin, but that would have gone against the Code of Enterprising Culinariness that is so important to all just-above-mediocre cooks like me (Remember, people - this is where you heard of the Code first!).

So I persevered, cutting the yam into round slices about 1/4 cm thick - or as close to that as I could manage with my knife. The yam slices were quite pretty because they had a delicate design of self-coloured dots - they kind of looked like small grains of semi-transparent, half-cooked sago (jevvarisi in Tamil) put together. (Ok, this might sound like a desperate attempt to retrieve the reputation of my yam - but honestly, the slices were pretty!)

I didnt feel in the least like boiling the slices or cooking them in any other way, so I decided to make crisps of them in the oven. I have to say that I was not at all sure of the outcome... but the Code spurred me on to lay out the slices neatly on a baking tray which I had covered with a sheet of silicone paper sprayed with Light Sunflower Oil (I was certain the yam would overcome the non-stick aspect of the solicone paper, which is why the extra precaution of spraying it!). Then I sprayed the slices with more of the same, and shoved the tray into the oven at 180C.

About 15 minutes later, I mustered up the courage to peek in - and what a surprise, the yam slices had dried out nicely and were in the process of crisping up. Filled with the glee of a cooking experiment that had, unaccountably and against all odds, worked out just fine, I turned over each slice and put the tray back in the oven.

Another 10 minutes (this time with a close eye kept on the crisps lest they turned into yam charcoal), and I had a trayful of wonderfully firm-textured, extremely tasty yam crisps. Salted and peppered, they served to satisfy our mid-afternoon munchies admirably well. May the soul of my yam find its satisfaction from ours.

Long live the Code!

Recipe for:
Oven-baked yam crisps


1 yam, peeled and sliced uniformly into 1/4-cm thick slices
Cooking spray as required
Salt and pepper or other spices to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 180C (about 350F) Arrange the yam slices on a baking sheet covered with greased silicone paper, so that the slices arent touching.

2. Bake for 15 minutes or so, or until the top surface of the yam has dried out and the slices are becoming brown.

3. Turn over the slices and bake for another 10 minutes, until the slices are crisp and brown (if you dont want the crisps very brown, take them out after five minutes - they will be chewy-crisp).

4. When cool, season with salt and pepper (or spices to taste) and store in an airtight container.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting... When my mother visited us in the US she happened to see this in the store. Yes she made chips from these. These are called Yucca Root here. I think we tamilians call it 'Maravalli Kizhangu' if not mistaken.Will try it your way instead of deep frying.

Anonymous said...

Hi Krithika,

Actually this isnt yucca root - it's really a yam! :) Yucca root is also known as cassava or mogo, which I did a post about at this link:

I know this yam looks just like yucca root/cassava, but it's different because the skin is quite thin and the flesh is quite gelatinous in texture. Cassava skin is quite thick, and the root itself very firm in texture.

Alanna Kellogg said...

Good save, Shammi! There's always something slimy in the bottom of my vegetable bin, too. I shall think of you next time I am deciding between the rubbish bin and ... the rubbish bin! Alanna

Anonymous said...

Oh wow ! This looks so much like Yucca. Yet another vegetable added to my 'to be tried' list(if I am lucky enough to find one). Good job Shammi.

Anonymous said...

AK, have a heart! I'm going to be remembered for slimy stuff & rubbish bins? :(

sailu said...

That's a very healthy way to preparing crisps.I make yam cutlets...havent tried yam crisps.Must try for me..thanks for sharing,Shammi.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts about what to do with a yam resonated (sp?) with me. I often find myself in a fix when I see an uncommon vegetable in my fridge. You went ahead and made something. I, on the other hand, would have let that thing sit until it become unusable and toss it out :-)

Will give this recipe a shot. Wonder how a sweet potato prepared the same way will turn out. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Hi Kamla

Y'know, that was going to be the next My Experiments with Crisps, with sweet potatoes. I'm sure they would make good oven-crisps - but I'll let you know for sure when I give it a try! If YOU go ahead first, let me know how it turns out, ok?

Anonymous said...

Sailu - how do you make yam cutlets? Please put up a post about it!

Shruthi said...

What a beautifully unique way of presenting a recipe :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Shruthi :) I actually enjoyed writing this ridiculously exaggerated post :) (But what I said about the crisps being yummy is all fact!)

Kay said...

Hmmmm, I've never tried the yams we find here. Your crisps inspire me to try this root.

Anonymous said...

That was an awesome picture of the chips..nice job with the yam.

bilbo said...

thanks for the slime alert.
I now know to stay away from the yam and its ilk. the crisps do look very good though.

Anonymous said...

YAY!! I finally found a recipe I can try for that darn Yam taking up space in my fridge! Thank you!!
Low fat.. just what I was looking for. :)


Anonymous said...

the picture shown is that of yam ( kachil in malayalam). it is very tasty to make curries with cocunet. or you can cut it into cubes(2")boil in steem eat with sauce or greenchilly chutney as breakfast or evening. Yam is the main food item for Nigerians

Anonymous said...

kachil is also called kavathu, so if this really is kachil, you could cook it the way it is cooked during thiruvathirai festival (december) by kerala iyers.

Anonymous said...

I had a yam staring at me balefully and was searching for recipes... Thank you for posting yours... Sadly, I didn't find the yams yummy... but have done this before with some nice sweet potatoes and THAT was very delicious... I am now trying to improve the awful yam chips I made with chili powder and fresh lime... Cross your fingers for me...any moment, another hungry person is going to come through the door and ask me what smells so bad... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Shammi,
I bought a Yam the other day, because I always like to try things I never had before.
Made it today by cutting it into pieces, just like you would do with potatoes, pre-boiled and then fried it in a bit of olive oil.
They were absolutely delicious!
But since I was very much surprised about the massive amounts of slime you already mentioned, I googled it and eventually found your site. Isn't the Internet a wonderful thing?
Very very well written story about "your" Yam, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Cheers from Austria!