This is my attempt at a very simple side dish I enjoyed many times at a small Korean restaurant in Palo Alto. Tofu House is a tiny chain in Santa Clara County. Chain or no, I really love their food. When I worked in PA, I’d often go there for a special lunch-upgrade. I have to thank my great friend Euriele for introducing this restaurant to me.
I work in San Francisco now so don’t get there much any more. Too bad for my stomach, though the car is a lot happier. These days, anytime we visit Palo Alto I try to eat there. My favorite dish is the spicy soft tofu soup flavored with kimichi. They deliver it piping hot in a stone pot. It is thrilling and dangerous. You have to let it cool for a while or you’ll burn your mouth and lips. (That’s happened to me more than once.)
Like a lot of Korean places, they serve kimchi and a myriad other small dishes both before and during the main course, all with endless refills. Tofu House is pretty creative so there’s lots to choose from: Napa cabbage kimichi, scallion and seafood pancakes, pickled cucumber, pickled radish, rice cooked with beans and, of course, the sweet potato dish.
Lately I have been reminiscing about Tofu House and the sweet potato side dish in particular. I think I got the recipe “right” based on my taste buds. I served this at a small dinner party. Everyone went back for seconds. The secret is the smoky flavors that the sesame oil and shoyu add to the potatoes.
sesame oil and shoyu flavored sweet potato
1½ lbs yellow or white sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium size cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup water
pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp shoyu (soy sauce)
Add olive oil, garlic and sweet potatoes to a pan and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add water, salt, black pepper, cover and cook on high temperature until potatoes are cooked through: sort of holding their shape but nearly dissolving. Add a bit more water if not fully cooked. Remove from heat. Fold in sesame oil and shoyu. Add more shoyu or salt if needed. Delicious!