My first experience eating daigaku-imo, literally and yet incomprehensibly translated as “university potatoes,” was not all that impressive. Seductive as they looked, they were dry, cold and unremarkable.
It turned out that my less than impressive experience with daigaku-imo was skewed by the fact that they were resting somewhat neglected in a supermarket. I somehow liked the idea of daigaku-imo, but never really had good ones until a friend of mine made them fresh.
I never quite memorized the proportions in the recipe, so I always improvise this recipe. We didn’t check the sugar temperature the first time, and we didn’t use enough oil for proper deep frying, and they still turned out nicely.
Accordingly, I try to be a bit more scientific about the process now, but I’m not that precise.
On this most recent occasion, I boiled raw sugar, Japanese soy sauce, a bit of mirin, and salt until they reached soft crack stage, caramelizing the sugar a bit. I didn’t measure anything but I used a fair amount of sugar. My preference for daigaku-imo is actually more on the “thick coating” side rather than the “crunchy coating” side, but this soft crack confection is a mostly happy medium; it’s a bit sticky right after serving and becomes a bit chewy and then crunchy as it cools. I’ll probably cook the syrup to a lower temperature next time, but I was happy with the results.
Upon serving, daigaku-imo are usually sprinkled with kuro-goma, black sesame seeds. I managed to coat some pieces way too much and some not at all.
I think I need to use a little bit lighter soy sauce, or a lighter hand with the soy sauce, to get a more pleasingly amber-hued caramel coating. But the flavor was quite nice.
I’m trying to figure out how to send a bunch of Oregon matsutake to Japan… One customer has asked for a way to send a bunch of them to many different gift recipients, so I’m trying to find a solution to minimize their shipping costs. I hope I can find a good deal.