How to Fry African Yams
True African yams, available in ethnic markets and some organic food stores, are closely related to the lily family and bear little resemblance to the sweet potatoes that are so often called yams in most North American supermarkets.
Yams are an ancient staple of the African diet, traditionally pierced and roasted over hot coals. They can also be boiled, baked and mashed with flour to make patties or croquettes. Frying parboiled yam slices in hot oil brings out the best in their flavor and texture, giving them a crisp exterior and silky, tender interior.
Things You’ll Need
- Chef’s knife
- Pot with lid
- Paper towels
- Skillet or deep fryer
How to Fry African Yams
Rinse yams thoroughly in cool water to remove any sand or grit. Slice them crosswise into rounds no thicker than 1/4 inch, keeping the thickness of the slices as consistent as you can. Peel the skin off of each slice. You may peel the yams before slicing them, but the skin is tough and it’s a bit easier to slice them before peeling.
Fill a large pot two-thirds of the way full of water and salt it lightly. Add the yam slices and bring the water to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pot and parboil the yam slices for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are tender but still slightly crisp.
Drain the yam slices in a colander. Shake the colander lightly to remove as much of the excess water as you can. Pat the yam slices dry with paper towels so that stray water droplets don’t pop when the slices are added to hot oil.
Fill a skillet with 1 to 2 inches of oil, or fill a deep fryer to the manufacturer’s recommended level. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 325 F to 350 F, or a sliver of yam sizzles when placed in the oil.
Add the yam slices to the hot oil in small batches. Fry them for about five minutes until they turn a light golden brown, turning them once with tongs.
Place the fried yams on a platter lined with paper towels. Season them with salt, pepper, and the herbs and spices of your choice. Sprinkle on chili powder to balance the sweetness with a bit of mild heat, or add cardamom and turmeric for a rich savory flavor.
Tips & Warnings
- Soak yam slices overnight in water with a heaping spoonful of sugar stirred into it to soften their texture and add extra sweetness.
- Never cook African yams without peeling them or at least puncturing the skins thoroughly, because heat expands the inner flesh and may cause the yams to explode.