Kyoto-style Chakin Shibori Sweet Potato with Cinnamon

Miwa’s Kyoto Kitchen Recipe This Japanese dessert confection is called Sui-to Poteto (スウィートポテト) in Japanese. That’s the Japanese pronunciation of sweet potato, as you probably guessed. Preparation is simple; steam the sweet potato and mash with butter, sugar, eggs, milk and cinnamon and bake. They are hand formed into delicate balls. We added cinnamon as an homage to Kyoto’s famous omiyage: Yatsuhashi.

Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Classic Modern Japanese Sweet: Sui-to Poteto
Sui-to Poteto is a classic that was invented in 1949 by Matsuzo Inoue, the patisserie at the exclusive Imperial (Teikoku) Hotel in Tokyo. Though he was based in Tokyo, his philosophy about food seems informed by Kyoto’s culinary culture; select quality and seasonal ingredients and endeavor to bring out the taste of the ingredients. Chef Inoue’s creation can now be found in confectionaries and bakeries all over Japan.

The sweet potato came to Japan some 300 years ago and is now a very common ingredient in many wagashi confections. (See below for details.)

Kyoto Cinnamon Omiyage: Yatsuhashi
Cinnamon came to Japan in the 8th century. At that time cinnamon was considered more a medicine than a spice. It was used to cure stomach aches, fever, improve blood circulation and warm the body. Yatsuhashi is Kyoto’s ubiquitous confection, it is omiyage, or souvenir. Yatsuhashi comes in numerous variaties but is invariably mochi, either fresh or baked, that has been flavored with cinnamon. There are countless companies and stores in Kyoto that make and sell yatsuhashi, at least three have been in business for more than 300 years!

Therefore, we added cinnamon to our sui-to poteto to make it Kyoto-style.

Japanese ‘Satsuma Imo’ Sweet Potato
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Steaming Satsuma Imo
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Mashing with Butter
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Mixing in Cinnamon
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Kyoto-style ‘Sui-to Poteto’ Recipe


  • 2 sweet potatoes (about 500 grams total)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar (we like natural brown sugar)
  • 30 grams butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 egg yolk (one for potato mixture one for glaze)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt (if desired)
  • sesame seeds

*Our measurements are approximate and we assume that our readers are foodies, so please taste along the way and adjust as you see fit.

point: To be Kyoto-style the final product should not be too sweet and the cinnamon should not overpower any of the other tastes. You want to bring out the natural taste of the sweet potato, enhance it with sweetness and richness. The cinnamon should be the grab your attention immediately but be the finish. Complexity and subtlety is the point, but by no means be dull!

Wash the sweet potatoes. Cut into 2 cm thick slices. Steam gently for 0ver low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Place in mixing bowl and remove skins after the slices have cooled enough to touch. It is important to gently steam the sweet potatoes at a relatively low temperature as this will increase the natural sweetness of the potatoes. (Best not to cheat and use the microwave!)

Mashing and mixing by hand, stir in butter and sugar. (A mixer can be used but we liked ours with a little chunkiness left. See last photo below for interior detail.) Mix in egg yolk and milk. Taste and add sugar and/or butter if needed. Stir in half the cinnamon and taste. Add remaining cinnamon as needed.

Gently form into roughly ping pong sized balls. Squeeze chakin shibori style if you like. Simply use damp muslin or similar cloth for this and rinse occasionally.

Brush on egg yolk glaze and add several sesame seeds on top. The second time we made this, I used white sesame seeds for some and sprinkled sugar on others.

Cook for 15 minutes in oven with broiler at 200 c or oven toaster. We tried both and definitely liked the oven toaster sui-to poteto best. You aren’t really cooking it through and through like a chocolate chip cookie, just getting it hot and browning the top.

Chakin Shibori – Twist and Squeeze in Muslin Cloth
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon
Chakin shibori (茶巾絞り) is used to shape many wagashi confections.

Chakin Shibori Formed Sui-to Poteto
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon
Notice the delicate texture imparted to the raw ‘sui-to poteto’ from the chakin cloth.

Egg Yolk and Black Sesame Seeds
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Baking Sui-to Poteto
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Sui-to Poteto – Served
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Sui-to Poteto and Milk
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Sui-to Poteto – detail
Home Cooking: Kyoto-style Sweet Potato (Sui-to Poteto) with Cinnamon

Sweet Potatoes in Japanese Culinary Culture
Sweet potatoes are more ubiquitous in Japan than you might imagined. They are used in all sorts of dishes, especially confections. Sweet potatoes came to Japan from South America through Southeast Asia, China and the Ryukyu Kingdom, present-day Okinawa and landed in Kyushu about 300 years ago.

Production of satsuma imo soon flourished on the southern tip of Japan (called Satsuma then) because of the volcanic soil and hot climate. Kyushu’s famed imo-jochu, the shochu distilled alcohol of the region, is made from these same sweet potatoes. Farther north in Japan wheat and rice is used.

Production of sweet potatoes was limited to the Satsuma region for some time until a horrible famine swept Japan. The people in present-day Kagoshima and Nagasaki prefectures fared significantly better than other areas because they had an abundant supply of rich and hardy sweet potatoes. After the famine, satsuma imo production was promoted by the Tokugawa Shogunate in Tokyo and quickly spread throughout the country.

from KyotoFoodie article Satsuma Imo (Sweet Potato) Caramel

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13 Responses to “Kyoto-style Chakin Shibori Sweet Potato with Cinnamon”

  1. Linda says:

    This looks charming and easy…I will try soon! Please tell me if they are served warm?

  2. TK says:

    Hi there.
    These look and sound exactly what I spend lots of money on buying in the stores. I’ll definitely give this recipe a go.
    Thanks for the post.

  3. Julia says:

    Are these usually served while still warm from the oven? Or are they enjoyed cold?

  4. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Linda, I tried them both warm and cold and while I like cookies right out of the oven, these were sweeter after they had cooled to room temperature.

    Hello TK, You buy these? Where, in Japan? They are not very difficult to make. Kurikinton is quite expensive, but that is because it is made with chestnuts, and they are much more expensive than sweet potatoes.

    Hello Julia, Again, both are nice but the flavors were decidedly more fixed and pronounced cold. The texture, feel and aroma warm are very pleasant. This recipe makes about 10 or so, so you ought to have enough to enjoy both warm and cold! Tell us what you think when you make them.

  5. Heidi says:

    This was JUST what I was looking for! Very easy, and a perfect blend of sugar, spice, and flavor. I couldn’t help but eat one piping hot out of the oven!! At first you taste the potato, then the sugar, then the cinnamon. My egg wash didn’t come out like yours unfortunately because I added just a bit of water, but still lovely. I think next time I will whip all the chunks out with a mixer to get it smooth and creamy.

  6. Heidi says:

    Oh, one thing I forgot to add – don’t neglect rinsing your cloth every so often if you decide to do it chakin shibori style, it really does make a difference in the shape of the spiral!

    Ahh these are so tasty I had 3 more…muuuuust leeeeeave kitcheeeeen!

  7. […] Kyoto-style Chakin Shibori Sweet Potato with Cinnamon at Kyoto […]

  8. Peko Peko says:

    Hi Heidi, Glad to hear that you made this and it was a success! You are right about rinsing the cloth often, that was my experience too. Sorry that I didn’t mention that. I did want to check with a chakin shibori pro to see how often they rinse theirs. Don’t you have a foodie blog? We would love to see your creation!

  9. david says:

    I made these last week and sent pictures to my stepmom in Kamakura. My dad said mine looked better than the ones she made! I’m so proud, because she is such a good cook and that’s a great they were so yummy! Thanks for the recipe, I will be making these again..

  10. Tedd says:

    I’ve eaten these made from a Japanese confectioner in Sacramento, one of the last shops of many, and I didn’t know it was sweet potato! I love them! I’m going to try making some myself.

    I wonder if their is a good substitute for the egg and egg wash on top?

  11. Momo says:

    will give this recipe a try! blog entry will be coming up as soon as my winter break begins! 😀 ty ty

  12. kathy says:

    Oh that looks yummy. We always have sweet potato and we either boiled it or make caramelized sweet potato fries. I gotta try this too. 🙂

  13. […] Chakin Shibori Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Sui-to Poteto (スウィートポテト) adapted from Kyoto Foodie makes about 20 […]

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