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The Sound Of 焼き芋

It is interesting that posts about roasted sweet potatoes, traditionally a cold-season food, should be popping up everywhere now that winter is officially over. I’m a great fan of sweet potatoes, and not just because of their high fiber content. I like their taste and texture. Too bad I don’t have hot stones over which to roast them and mostly use my microwave.

In Japan, roasted sweet potatoes also have a sound. They are sold from small trucks with fire-heated pebbles in the back, predominantly during the cold-weather season. The vendors chant (or play recordings of chants) about their roasted potatoes to attract customers – voilà, the sound of 焼き芋.

Avi Landau has a long post in Tsukublog about sweet potatoes in Japan. It will give you a good introduction. Back in 2002, Jeremy Hedley’s now dormant blog Antipixel had a great recording of a yaki-imo seller’s chant and I have borrowed the file. Click on the player below.

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This wouldn’t be the era of mash-ups and remixes if there weren’t any number of “processed” yaki-imo chants available. I’d like to point you to two recordings which have, in my opinion, a great deal of atmosphere. One is the Electric Crow Funk of Tokyo from January 2010; the other the more recent 焼き芋-Cliff Richard mash-up in Momus’ blog Mrs Tsk*.


2 Responses to “The Sound Of 焼き芋”

  1. EP says:

    I just saw a little documentary about Japan on German TV and they showed them (those sweet potatoes) on one segment. They looked really good but, then again, all the food in Japan does.

    • Michael says:

      The look of the served food is very important in Japan. Generally, there are no large portions but a variety of smaller dishes, and it is an art to combine them so that not only their flavors are complementary but their colors go together as well. Texture is another important factor. I often heard people say they like pickled white radish (daikon), which turns yellow from the brine and has a crunchy consistency, because “it sounds so interesting” when they chew it.

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