Korean Food : Did you buy Baked sweet potatoes today, Mom? 

“Did you buy sweet potatoes today, Mom?”

It was the first question that I asked when my mom got home from work.
 I was happy when she answered me back ‘Yes’.
But regardless of my wish, she sometimes said to me.

“No, today the sweet potato vendor didn’t come out there."

Some vendors are not stable like in-store merchants.

In Korea, sweet potatoes were sold like a street food.
But, some vendors are not stable like in-store merchants. Most of vendors are the elderly who work on the street for their living. Even stray adolescents or high-school students sell them for fun. Moreover, in Korea, vending is not legitimately allowed in most areas. Due to these conditions, they don’t come out or they change selling places very often. So, Mom couldn’t buy me sweet potatoes at times and I felt so disappointed and even sad..



How about home baked sweet potatoes?

No, It doesn’t satisfy me as much as street one.
There’s something special to street sweet potatoes.

Street vendors roasted sweet potatoes in an specially devised equipment. What is that? It is a drum. Do I mean a real drum? Yes, I meant that. The drum is modified to roast sweet potatoes. There is one wide door at the side of the drum so that you can put firewood to set a fire. There are also a few narrow long drawers inside to put raw sweet potatoes. The metal cover helps keep heat inside as like an oven. Few minutes later adding them, you can smell the baking. Sweet potatoes are roasted enough to eat. It’s time for you to enjoy the nature given sweets.  

Homebaked vs Streetbaked

That is because there are several differences in tastes.

A street sweet potato has a secret ingredient. You will taste sweet and nutty flavors in sweet potatoes and those are created by starch and amino-acid. But the most delicious part of street one is the caramel flavor that is generated by heating sugars.

What is the secret ingredient? It is firewood inside the drum. It sometimes burns parts of sweet potatoes and those parts are attractively caramelized. It also gives distinctive woody flavors to sweet potatoes, that makes them distinguished from home baked. This combination of all flavors makes you indulge in street sweet potatoes.

Technically, based on science research, the street one is proved to be sweeter than homebaked one thanks to less water contain. On the process inside the drum, the water evaporates from sweet potatoes, so sugars condensate. It makes the texture differences as well. The home baking one has rough and dry texture, street one has hard and chewy since starch and sugar tangle into firm string-like texture.

Few days ago,
I read thatthe sweet potato vendors are disappearing owing to the fire wood price-risin. That is sad news. As it is hard  to bake sweet potatoes at home, there should be vendors who specialized in making them. Also, Many Koreans long for the memory Mom brought them home just I do. 

I know there's no sweet potato vendors in my town anymore.
I murmur myself.

Did you buy sweet potatoes today, Mom? 



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Posted by Food Storyist

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