I can’t remember when I became quite so obsessed with purple sweet potato. It probably started when I first tried these sweet potato Kit Kats, and, contrary to all expectations, found them so tasty that I even bought an entire box of them. Later on, I enjoyed a slice of purple sweet potato Swiss roll from the Japan Centre, and became intrigued by the idea of ube in doughnuts.
All that being said, purple sweet potatoes didn’t seem to be available here in the UK, so further investigation proved impossible for a while. Eventually, as with most random foodstuffs, they showed up on Ocado, and I bought a pack.
Purple versus orange: the showdown
I pitted purple sweet potato against the more common orange variety in a taste test showdown. Here are both varieties before cooking:
Both are a nice, bright colour – all it needs is for someone to invent a turquoise sweet potato to complete the set. The purple variety has some white streaks through it, and seems woodier in its raw state.
I steamed both types of potato for around twenty-five minutes, and then seasoned them with sea salt and lime juice. Here’s what they looked like straight after steaming:
Texture-wise, the purple sweet potato is denser and claggier than its orange cousin. This meant it soaked up the lime juice better, but also that it was just a chore to eat. The orange sweet potato is a lighter and more pleasant experience.
In terms of taste, orange sweet potato definitely lays a greater claim to the ‘sweet’ part of the name. It is sweeter, but pleasantly so, rather than being overpowering. The purple sweet potato has a more muted flavour, somewhere between orange sweet potato and regular potato.
I also used some of the purple sweet potato to make a chiffon cake. This was much more successful – the cake was light, fluffy and again with a muted sweetness. My tasting companion was not so enamoured of it, but I would definitely bake this again.
In conclusion, I don’t think I would bother using purple sweet potato in savoury cooking again – I didn’t enjoy it that much, and orange sweet potato is both nicer and cheaper. It might be interesting to try making crisps out of purple sweet potato, but that’s a project for a while in the future. I will definitely be using it in sweet baked goods again, however.