Beni imo, sweet potato from Okinawa 沖縄の紅芋

  • Published on : 30/09/2017
  • by : F.F.Y.
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Taro and Beni Imo

Taro (sato imo) on the left, and beni imo on the right.

Okinawa stripes

Purple island sweetness

The Okinawa archipelago contains many treasures, both in landscapes and culinary specialties. One of them is a special local sweet potato called "beni-imo". What's so special about it? Beyond its delicious sweetness, its skin is an intense purple color.

Sweet potato from Yomitan

It's impossible to ignore its presence in Okinawa: the beni-imo is the star of the main island: there are sweets and ice cream using this violet sweet potato in almost every corner of the capital, Naha. In every convenience store, you can even buy beni-imo ice cream. Its popularity grows stronger as you reach the village of Yomitan on the western coast. And for good reason: this is where the beni-imo comes from. It's even called 'the sweet potato of Yomitan'. Its deep purple skin makes it unique to the eyes and an excellent culinary souvenir of the island!

Read also: Yomitan village

The beni-imo, a "super-food"

In addition to its striking color - which comes from the same molecule giving the violet color to blueberries and red cabbage - the Okinawan sweet potato is officially recognized as a "superfood". First, it's very rich in fiber. Also, one potato contains four times the daily dose of vitamin A needed for an adult, and half the daily vitamin C requirement.

But don't confuse beni-imo, which is a sweet potato, with taro (sato-imo), which is a tuber. Both are found in Okinawa and they may look similar, but taro is much whiter than beni imo, does not have the same texture, and, above all, taste different. Beni-imo is extremely sweet, making great desserts.

Beni imo Cheesecake

Beni Imo (purple sweet potato) cheesecake from Okinawa.

Vivre le Japon

Cheesecakes and purple brownies

In the village of Yomitan, there is a large shop dedicated to beni-imo desserts (tourist attraction), near Cape Zampa. Here, you can see the manufacture of many typical cakes and taste different kinds of wagashi (Japnese sweets) using beni-imo. Do try the purple cheesecake or brownies​​​​​​! You must try some of these desserts at least once!

This potato is everywhere, in cakes, in bread and pastries, and in ice creams... The most famous is the beni-imo tart, which looks like a small boat filled with swirls of piped purple cream. It is one of Okinawa's favorite. In addition, many products such as small ice creams or beni-imo chocolates are also found in Okinawa. You can also buy it in powdered form, and prepare your own at home!

Beni imo tart, an Okinawa specialty

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