Sautéed Mountain Yam is cooked in the simplest manner, making the best of this unique ingredient. The mountain yam pieces are flavoured only with butter and soy sauce, but it is surprisingly delicious.
The yam I used today is a Chinese yam, which is called ‘nagaimo’ (長芋) in Japanese. I recently discovered that Chinese yam is sold at one of the Chinese vegetable shops in Eastwood, about 17km northwest of Sydney CBD. Eastwood is a busy hub of Asian restaurants and grocery shops. I was so excited to have found it that I had to buy it.
I watched a Japanese TV series called Shinya Shokudō (深夜食堂, Midnight Diner) quite some time ago. Each episode is about a heart-warming story that is associated with a particular dish. At the end of the episode, there is always a brief explanation of how to cook the dish that featured in the episode.
Today’s dish, Sautéed Mountain Yam, was in one of the episodes and I always wanted to try it but couldn’t until recently when I found Chinese yam. You can imagine how excited I was!
Now I can share some recipes using this unique vegetable.
About Mountain Yam
Mountain yam is a common name for plants that form edible tubers. There are hundreds of varieties. Unlike some other similar species such as taro, mountain yam can be eaten raw, often grated.
Mountain yam is ‘yamaimo’ (山芋) in Japanese, which is a generic name for varieties of species from the Dioscoreaceae family.
There are three varieties commonly used in Japan.
Nagaimo is a yam variety that came from China, and is called Chinese yam in English. It is a long slender yam of 4-6cm/1½-2⅜” wide and 50-80cm/1.6-2.6ft long, with pale yellow skin and fine hairs (the left yam in the photo above). It contains more water than other species, and therefore the grated nagaimo is sticky and watery.
This one is skinnier than nagaimo and the skin is darker, almost like the colour of dirt. the width of the root is about 3cm/1⅛” and grows more than 1m/3.3ft long. It has the strongest stickiness of the three. It is so sticky that when you pick up part of the grated yam, the entire yam will come with it. I like this thick sticky yam best. The thin dark brown yam in the photo above is another yam that I bought in Eastwood. When greated, it is very similar to jinenjō in the appearance and the texture.
Ichōimo (銀杏芋)/yamatoimo (大和芋)
The shape of ichōimo is like a gingko (maidenhair) leaf, which is where the Japanese name of this yam came from. ‘Ichō’ (銀杏) means gingko and ‘imo’ (芋) is potato/yam. The degree of stickiness is much stronger than nagaimo and less watery.
I don’t have a photo of ichōimo, but it looks like this illustration.
Mountain yam has a mild sweet flavour and slimy texture. When grated, it becomes sticky and starchy pulp that you can eat as a dish by itself with a small amount of soy sauce or soy-based sauce. You can also use it as a thickener for Okonomiyaki batter or a topping on food such as raw fish, noodles, and cooked rice.
Raw yam is slimy, but when sliced and sautéed the sliminess disappears, and the texture is replaced by the pleasant soft crunchiness.
Some people have a mild allergic reaction to the flesh of above mountain yams. Your skin might get itchy when sticky yam pulp touches your skin. It usually won’t cause itchiness if you rinse your skin quickly. The itchiness can be reduced by applying vinegar to the irritated skin.
To avoid potential irritation of your skin, some people put on gloves when handling them.
What’s in My Sautéed Mountain Yam
Sautéed Mountain Yam is one of the simplest mountain yam dishes to make. I think the best way to enjoy the unique texture and gentle flavour of such an ingredient is to eat it in a simple way.
This dish requires only 3-5 ingredients. If you omit the optional items, you only need 3 ingredients.
- Chinese mountain yam (nagaimo)
- Soy sauce
- Pepper (optional)
- Chopped chives or green onions for garnish (optional)
Chinese mountain yam (nagaimo) is best suited for today’s dish because you slice the root into discs. If you only have a thin yam root or ichōimo, I’d suggest that you cut it into batons.
Instead of a green vegetable for a garnish, you can scatter roasted seaweed shreds called ‘kizami nori’.
How to make Sautéed Mountain Yam
Once the Chinese mountain yam is sliced into discs, it is just a matter of sautéing them and adding a flavour to them. It is probably not worth it, but I made a video to show you how easy it is.
- Peel and slice Chinese mountain yam into 1cm/⅜” thick discs.
- Melt butter and sauté the yam pieces in a frying pan.
- Season with pepper and soy sauce.
- Serve the sautéed yam on a plate with chopped chives scattered over it.
The flesh of Chinese mountain yam is slimy and slippery. Particularly after peeling it, you will find that you need an extra finger muscle to hold the root to slice it (see the video). To stop the root from slipping, I used a piece of kitchen paper to hold the peeled yam root. This also prevents the yam pulp sticking to your hand, which may make your skin itchy.
Nagaimo is a seasonal vegetable. In Sydney, only some Asian vegetable shops sell it. If you can find it, I would strongly recommend that you try today’s dish. The unique soft crunchiness is something I get attracted to, and I keep on making it again and again.
As mentioned earlier, there are other very simple ways of eating mountain yam, without even cooking it. I will post a couple of dishes using grated mountain yam as soon as I can, hopefully before the yamaimo season in Sydney is over.
Watch How To Make It
Sautéed Mountain Yam is cooked in the simplest manner, making the best of this unique ingredient. Raw mountain yam is slimy but when sliced and sautéed, the sliminess disappears and the texture is replaced by the pleasant soft crunchiness. (Watch the video)
If you are a vegetarian, use a vegan butter to sauté the yam.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 300-350g Chinese mountain yam (note 1)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- Pepper (optional)
- Chives cut into short pieces (note 2)
Peel mountain yam and slice it into 1cm/⅜" thick discs (note 3).
Heat a large frying pan (note 4) over medium heat and melt the butter.
Put the yam discs in the pan without overlapping.
Cook for 2½ – 3 minutes until the bottom of the yam pieces are browned.
Turn the yams over and cook further 2½ minutes until the bottom of the yams becomes browned.
Sprinkle pepper (if using) over the yam and add soy sauce.
Quickly turn the yam pieces over to coat both sides of the yam pieces with the soy sauce, then remove the pan from the heat (note 5).
Pile the sautéed yams on a serving plate, scatter the chopped chives over it.
1. Chinese Mountain Yam is called ‘nagaimo’(長芋) in Japanese. It is best suited to today’s dish. But if you can find only a thin mountain yam or an odd-shaped yam such as, you can still use it by cutting it into batons.
See the post for more details about Mountain Yam varieties that are commonly used in Japanese cooking.
2. Instead of chives, you can use finely chopped green onion or roasted seaweed shreds (kizami nori).
3. The flesh of mountain yam is very slippery. I use a piece of kitchen paper to hold the peeled yam root. That stops the yam root slipping from your hand when holding it (see the step-by-step photo and the video).
4. I used a 23cm/9" frying pan that snuggly fit in all the yam pieces. If you only have a small pan, you’ll have to cook them in two batches.
5. You can even turn off the heat as soon as you add soy sauce because the residual heat of the pan continues to condense the soy sauce. Prolonged heating will burn the soy sauce and make it bitter.
6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 2 servings.
serving: 165g calories: 178kcal fat: 5.9g (9%) saturated fat: 3.7g (19%) trans fat: 0.2g polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g monounsaturated fat: 1.5g cholesterol: 15mg (5%) sodium: 503mg (21%) potassium: 779mg (22%) carbohydrates: 30g (10%) dietary fibre: 0.1g (0%) sugar: 0g protein: 3.3g vitamin a: 4% vitamin c: 0% calcium: 1.3% iron: 4.2