Lately, I’ve had a hankering for sweet potatoes — and not prepared the way you might expect, dredged in olive oil and brown sugar and roasted until crispy or mashed with butter and maple syrup. No, instead, I’ve been thinking about sweet potatoes in miso sauce. It’s a dish I used to eat at the Asian-inspired tea house Teaism years ago when I lived in D.C. Their specialty is tea (surprise!), but their fluffy ginger scones, udon soups and bento boxes are delicious too.
In one of the compartments of the chicken bento is this side of sweet potatoes in miso. It’s served chilled, not warm, but the nutty, salty flavor of the miso combined with the creamy texture of the potatoes — not to mention the accompanying hot tea and good company — always made it seem more like a classic comfort food than light side. Since I moved to Brooklyn, I’ve often wished Teaism would open a New York City outpost, but finally I just broke down and decided to make this dish myself.
Despite the fact that Japanese cuisine is ragingly popular here, miso paste hasn’t caught on quite like spicy tuna rolls and wasabi. It’s just not one of those things like garlic and sea salt you find in peoples’ kitchens, although it makes just as great a seasoning. If you’re not familiar with it, miso is fermented soybean paste. It’s a relative of tofu, but think of it as the eccentric boisterous aunt. While it is used commonly in miso soup, it’s also a flavorful ingredient in marinades and sauces, with a distinct salty flavor.
A little miso goes a long way. I mixed miso with rice wine vinegar for acidity, then added a splash of water to thin it out more. The sauce at Teaism is a little pale and pasty, so on a tip I found from a quick google search, I added a bit of mayonnaise. Mixed together and poured over the sweet potatoes I had cubed, cooked and cooled, it tasted like the original. This dish is simple and flavorful, and makes a great complement to chicken teriyaki or a side for a light lunch. Next, I guess I’ll have to tackle those ginger scones.
Miso-glazed sweet potatoes
Peel and cube 2 to 3 sweet potatoes, then boil for 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, depending on the size of the cubes. The texture should be soft but still a bit chewy. Chill the sweet potatoes for two hours.
For glaze: mix 2 tablespoons miso paste (I used dark miso) with 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise. Mix. Then combine with the sweet potatoes.