Thai Style Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
When I first started cooking with sweet potatoes about 14 years ago, I would wrap them in foil and serve them like a regular sweet potato on the side of chicken or beef. It was a year or two before I started experimenting, learning the joys of sweet potato fries or creamy sweet potato soup, and even longer before they started making their way into my baking or breads. Soon I couldn’t get enough of the modest sweet potato, and it made it’s way onto the table in savory coconut curries, fresh lime and cilantro spiked salads, basil and orange soaked salads, and the ubiquitous mashes at ever holiday dinner from October to May.
I should like sweet potatoes because in addition to simple starches they are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins A, B and C, and beta carotene. Who doesn’t love beta carotene? I have a theory that I am starting to go blind, despite significant evidence that I’m often just overly tired (coupled with the fact that my Optometrist rolls her eyes every time that I insist that I need glasses, considering that the tests all say 20/20). For that reason, carrots, sweet potatoes, and other beta carotene rich vegetables end up on my “Golly These Are Great!” list of foods that make me feel better. Sure, maybe I do tend towards hypochondria, but at least I’m an easily sated hypochondriac who is a sucker for the placebo effect. Also, if I can ‘cure’ what ails me using a tuber instead of a tonic, isn’t that a good thing? Now if only I could find a vegetable to treat that itchy and cancerous tumour on my arm which Mike says is just a spider bite….
Back to the sweet potatoes though, since this article is clearly about to tumble down the slippery slope towards my questionable stability. Ah, sweet potatoes. They’re deliciously versatile, heart healthy and flavorific. My almost-sister-in-law makes a killer twice baked sweet potato with cream cheese and pecans, using smaller and more delicate sweet potatoes, but heaven forbid that I would be so understated. No, I go for the big, beefy sweet potatoes that are the size of a premature baby, and I pack them with vegetables until they’re so full that this entree could roll itself off the plate. Sweet potatoes are commonly used in Thai and other Asian cuisines, and we borrowed these bold flavors like ginger, curry, spicy chili and cilantro to stuff a sweet potato that packs a punch…but then pats you on the head and says, “You ate well, kid.”
Thai Style Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
- 3 large sweet potatoes *
- 2 tbsp olive oil + more to rub
- 2 red peppers
- 1 green pepper
- 1 yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- large know (1.5″) fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 3 tsp Thai curry paste **
- 1 lime (1 tsp zest + juice of whole)
- 1/2 lemon (juice only)
- handful fresh cilantro (1/3 cup finely minced)
- 4 green onions
- 1 tsp sambal oelek, optional
- salt and pepper, to taste
* Sweet potatoes can vary in size and shape. For this recipe, opt for large sweet potatoes that are 6-7″ long and of a fairly uniform shape (no curves, lumps or bends).
** Thair curry paste can commonly be found in yellow, red and green varieties. I used green curry paste this time but red works equally well and they are generally about equally spicy. Store bought curry pastes will vary in both flavor and heat, so you might want to start out using less (1-2 tsp) if you are faint of heart and ramp up the heat as you feel comfortable. We quite enjoy spicy food, and with the full amount of curry paste and sambal oelek it was decidedly -and deliciously- spicy.
Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes to remove any lingering soil. Lightly rub the outside of each sweet potato with a little bit of oil and then wrap it tightly in tinfoil. Bake the potatoes in your oven until they are fork tender, which should take 60-90 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes and how hot your oven runs.
If you are making these for a weeknight meal, you can always bake the sweet potatoes a day or two in advance and then prepare the rest of the recipe when you don’t have the same luxury of time.
While the sweet potatoes are baking, ready the rest of your ingredients. Chop the peppers and yellow onion into a small dice (1/4″). Peel the garlic and ginger and mince both quite finely.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil up in a fairly large skillet set over moderately to moderately-low heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and let the onions sweat out for 3-5 minutes until they are translucent and just starting to turn golden. Add the peppers and raise the heat slightly so that they don’t stew. Sautee the peppers for another 2 minutes or so until they are tender but not mushy.
Immediately remove the pan from the heat when the peppers have softened.
When the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each one vertically in half. Scoop out the flesh but leave a 1/4″ shell around the sweet potato as this will be your ‘boat’. Reserve the flesh in a medium-large mixing bowl.
Add the coconut milk, curry paste, lime zest and juice, lemon juice and sambal oelek (optional) to the sweet potato flesh. Mash this mixture until it is smooth and no lumps remain.
Stir the slightly cooled pepper mixture into the seasoned sweet potato flesh.
Finely chop the green onions (both white and green parts) and mince the cilantro. Stir these into the rest of the mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Crank the heat in your oven up to broil.
Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the potato shells on it, skin side down. Mound the filling generously inside the shells. If you want to pat the filling into a round but smoother shape, feel free to do so, but wet your hands before patting it.
Broil the stuffed sweet potatoes until the filling is piping hot and the top is beginning to char and brown.
This vegan entrée is sweet, spicy, and deceptively filling, so a fresh quickly marinated cucumber salad and some aromatic brown jasmine rice are a nice way to round out the meal. Serve the twice baked sweet potatoes with a wedge of fresh lime on the side for squeezing.
Robust by light and heart healthy, these Thai style twice baked sweet potatoes are a hit in our house for dinner or leftover for lunch the next day.
Spicy and sweet, the flavor is complex with aromatic Thai curry paste and verdant cilantro. The sweet potato is anything but humble or lowly, and the more I play with exotic flavors and varied preparations, the more I appreciate this fabulous orange fleshed root vegetable. Oh yes, and the fact that this recipe is filling but friendly to the waistline doesn’t hurt either!