Yam fries (also known as sweet potato but I have a bit of a semantic chip on my shoulder and insist on sticking with the word yam) are one of those elusive culinary curiosities that have stumped even the most die hard health conscious gourmand. Is it possible to create delicious crispy baked fries from yams?
For the longest time, and after many a soggy result, I had decided that no, it is not possible to crisp up those orange wonders, but as I love yams in any form, the tuber impasse was not too hefty a blow as I quietly consigned crispy yam fries to the realms of long fabled food myth as intangible as the Sasquatch or the Ogopogo.
However, I recently came across this website, and several others after, which claimed that the key to capturing the long sought after, evasively crispy yam-y snack is to soak the prepared yam in water before cooking. While it sounds a little counter intuitive to soak them in water to avoid sogginess it actually makes sense. Yams contain a lot of starch and by soaking them for a few hours some of the starch is released and washes away into the water. Just make sure to rinse them well and pat them dry before baking.
The original recipe that I found suggested coating the yams in cornflour before baking them. I think this would work really well as it would absorb more of the moisture and create a crispy crust, but when I did mine I decided to use a mix of brown rice flour and fine polenta, just because I thought it might give them a bit more texture in the crust. I also flavoured mine with a mix of chipotle powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and a sprinkling of sea salt. These are some of my favourite flavours, but you could really flavour them with anything that you’d like. I even found one recipe that suggested sprinkling them with cinnamon sugar! Yum!!
Here’s the method for making crispy yam fries:
- Peel the yams and cut them into thin fry-shaped chunks.
- Put the yams in a large bowl and cover them with cold water. Leave to soak for 1 or 2 hours, possibly changing the water half way through if you’d like.
- Strain the yams and rinse them very well with cold water.
- Pat them as dry as you can get them.
- Put the dried yams into a large bowl and sprinkle with rice flour, polenta, semolina, corn starch or other similar flour or starch. Add any dry flavourings that you might be using and toss them well so that they’re all evenly coated with a thin layer of the flour and flavourings. It’s important to do this before adding any oil or the powdered stuff will all go lumpy and you won’t be able to cover them evenly.
- Drizzle over enough oil to just lightly coat all of the fries.
- Spread them out on a flat baking tray being sure not to over crowd them.
- Place them on the bottom rack of an oven heated to about 180 degrees Celsius and bake them for about an hour to an hour and a half turning them once half way through. Open the door of the oven from time to time for a couple of seconds to allow any steam to escape and keep the oven as dry as you can.
- Bake them until the outside is dried out and crispy, turn off the oven, open the oven door a bit and leave them for 10 to 15 minutes more.
So that’s how to make yam fries. Because there are so many variations that you can do with this I’m not including a recipe, I think it’s best just to play it by ear and to play around with flavours and so on. This is a great place to experiment, and if you follow the above steps they should be lovely and crispy.
I’m thrilled that I’ve finally cracked this mystery of the ages. Now that it’s solved I might end up eating these yam fries all of the time. Now on to the next mystery: Is it possible to make a healthy version doughnut that is still a doughnut? Hmm….that one might take some serious work….