Satsuma Imo (Sweet Potato) Caramel

Classic Japanese Candy: Sweet Potato Caramel. I have been a fan of bontan ame candy for some time and have written about it twice on KyotoFoodie. The company that makes it also makes another unique soft candy product made with the produce of Kyoto: sweet potato. I knew about this sweet potato caramel but had never been able to find it. I finally found some!

Classic Japanese Candy: Sweet Potato Caramel さつまいもキャラメル

This unique caramel is made by the same Kyushu based company that makes bontan ame, another meibutsu (meisan) product. It indeed has a ‘caramely’ taste but is not as sticky and chewy as Western caramel. It still has a tiny hint of the granular stringiness of sweet potatoes. As bontan ame, it is not that sweet, probably about the right sweetness to satisfy a sweet tooth but not enough to affect the waistline.

This soft candy, like bontan ame is wrapped in the edible cellophane called oblaat that came to Japan with Western medicine at the beginning of the Meiji era. The oblaat immediately melts on contact with the tongue.

The ingredients are; mizuame (lit. ‘water candy’, a traditional sweetener), satsuma imo sweet potato, butter, sugar and condensed milk. Sweet potato makes up about 1/3 of the volume of each soft candy.

This, like bontan ame is very fascinating to me because it is made with Japanese ingredients and to Japanese tastes, but it was very obviously inspired by Western candy. In the Taisho era (1912-1926) Japan was heavily influenced and inspired by the West but was still distinctly Japanese. Much of the art, design, fashion and products of this era are very interesting to Westerners because they are modern, but not quite exotic. There is a connection to us but also there is something unique that we could not have come up with. I think that this era was Japan’s modern ‘Golden Age’.

Nostalgic Package Design
Classic Japanese Candy: Sweet Potato Caramel さつまいもキャラメル

Sweet Potato Caramel with Oblaat Wrapping
Classic Japanese Candy: Sweet Potato Caramel さつまいもキャラメル

Satsuma Imo (Sweet Potato)
Classic Japanese Candy: Sweet Potato Caramel さつまいもキャラメル

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.

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11 Responses to “Satsuma Imo (Sweet Potato) Caramel”

  1. TK says:

    Looks good Where did you buy it?


  2. Michelle says:

    I’m not a fan of caramel but I like sweet potato though. This caramel candy looks interesting and is definitely worth a try. I also like the packaging. Where did you get this product and the bontan ame (on your previous post)? For the bontan ame, does the company makes other flavors besides the citrus? I love bontan ame.

  3. Peko Peko says:

    Hello TK, I bought it at one of those discount candy and junk food dealers that are found in most shotengai shopping arcades. This one happened to be in the arcade at Demachiyanagi, facing Kawaramachi Street. It is right at the entrance, on the south side.

    Hello Michelle, Please see above comment as to where I purchased it. Bontan ame is available in most super markets. Bontan ame is only made from bontan, I think. (Bontan is the citrus fruit.) This link is the company’s website.

  4. TK says:

    Thanks! I really like their bontan ame so I’d like to try this.

  5. Meg says:

    These look delicious, and the package is adorable. I love satsuma imo! I hadn’t checked your blog in several days, and was excited to see so many posts this morning. Autumn in Kyoto looks like a tasty time of year–as I guess it is in most places. Thanks for the wonderful updates.

  6. Natalie says:

    Thank you so much for posting this!!! When I was a kid my mom had some Japanese pen pals stay the month with us, and I hve never forgotten about these candies. Its been at least 10 years and I still remember the wrapper melting in my mouth.

  7. Peko Peko says:

    Hi TK, Yeah, this is definitely worth a try, my fav is still bontan ame though.

    Hi Meg, Thanks for checking my blog! I am always glad to hear that the people on the other end enjoy it. Yes, the package is indeed delightful.

    Hi Natalie, Wow, so you got some of these candies via pen pals. The wrapping is indeed a novelty.

  8. Doris Hoover says:

    I am a gardener and would like to plant this imo. How is it different from the sweet potato or yam grown in the USA. Do they have the same health benefits?

  9. caglar keskin says:

    Potatoes are one of the most common vegetables all over the world. They are cheap, easy to cook and have so many health benefits.
    You can bake them, boil them, microwave them… everyone can make something to eat with potatoes.I will start to grow tomatoes
    in my farm and now learning watever i can about them, thanks for information. I also found another good site
    about potatoes and so many other methods of agriculturing, i recommend you to take a look.

  10. Purabi Naha says:

    Wow, I loved this post. Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite foods and I love trying new dishes with it. This sounds fun!

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