Sweet Tatty Soup Packs a Punch

I first came across the hierarchy of sweet potatoes outside a greengrocer’s in Tooting Broadway some years ago, in the look of disgust on an old woman’s face when she realised they didn’t have any Jamaican sweet potatoes in, just the Egyptian kind.

But I don’t think I ever actually tried the Jamaican variety until this evening. I always assumed Jamaican sweet potatoes were the pink ones, and the paler looking ones were Egyptian, but it’s the other way round. And they’re twice the price. The Sherwood greengrocer I visited yesterday kindly warned me that the two sweet potatoes I was about to buy cost almost £5, which turned out to be more than half the price of my shop. But I persevered with my purchase anyhow.

The Jamaican sweet potatoes, it turns out, are white inside, like yams. And they’re rather peculiar. The peeled vegetable starts to go a nasty grey in places on exposure to the air, and it seems to corrode the skin, leaving it dry and rough, though not as bad as butternut squashes.

The texture when cooked is like taro—soft but firm at the same time, and crushes with a delicious sensation when you bite on it. I could well imagine it as the sweet filling inside some Taiwanese pastry.

But it’s the heavily perfumed flavour that really astonished me. It was a particularly fragrant soup—I’d used ginger and chilli, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamon—but I don’t think any of those can have accounted for the distinct whiff of rosewater (yes, the stuff they put in Turkish delight) I got with several mouthfuls. Well, it could conceivably have been the cardamon, but I’m siding with the sweet potato for the time being.

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