In the part of the world where I come from, yam is an essential part of the diet. When I was growing, we had boiled yam for breakfast at least two days of the week – typically eaten with stew, fried eggs or just palm-oil. A curry, however was not one of the ways we ate yam. This yam curry is a recent discovery which my family have grown to love.
Yam is one of those versatile foods that can be eaten in many ways. Asides from boiling, it could be fried in oil or roasted. It is sometimes pounded into a dough like format (Iyan) or dried and ground into flour, which is cooked into a thick paste (amala); and consumed with soup. It can be made into a porridge (asaro), grated and fried into fritters (ojojo); or made into a curry. This yam recipe that I'm sharing today is quick, easy to prepare and filling; which makes it perfect for those weekday nights.
I will say the only way, yam can’t be enjoyed is raw because they contain bitter compounds like phenols and tannins. If eaten raw, yams, could cause gastro-intestinal problems or lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Differences Between Yam and Sweet Potatoes
Yam means different things to different people, depending on the part of the world they come from. In the US for example, purple and orange varieties of sweet potatoes are referred to as yams. Epicurious has an explanation for this; https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/whats-the-difference-between-sweet-potatoes-and-yams-article.
Yams and potatoes are both edible root vegetables, but that is where the similarity ends. Yams are larger in size, have a rougher skin, are not as sweet, and usually have more starch than sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes tend to have long and tapered appearance and you can easily remove the skin with a peeler; whereas, you need a knife to do the same job with yam.
Yam refers to plants belonging to the genus Dioscorea; with edible tubers. There are many yam types - There is white, yellow, purple, Chinese and trifoliate yams. Cush cush is another type, which is popular in South America.
Yam is an important staple food in the Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. For this curry recipe, I used "white yam”, which is indigenous to West Africa, and is the most common in the area. This agricultural produce is of great commercial importance in the region. For example, Nigeria is the largest producer of yam in the world, while Ghana is the largest exporter.
In some parts of Africa, yam has important socio-cultural significance. For example, in Nigeria, a traditional marriage ceremony is not complete without its exchange between the two families. Infact, In Igboland in the Southeast of of Nigeria, yam is referred to as the “king of crops”, and they celebrate “new yam festival” annually at the end of the rainy season.
The nutritional importance of yam cannot be underestimated. It is a nutrient dense food, which is made up of complex carbohydrates and soluble dietary fibre. Soluble fibre is good in that it cannot be absorbed by the body, so it doesn’t contribute to spikes in blood glucose levels. It also slows down digestion, which helps to feel fuller for longer.
Yam contains small levels of protein compared to other foods, however, it is an important source of the nutrient; and it provides a high proportion of dietary protein in some parts of Africa, where people rely mostly on plant protein.
Yam is rich in group B vitamins particularly vitamin B6, folate and pantothenic acid. These vitamins play an important role in converting food to energy and red blood cells production. Yam is also a good source of vitamin C, and contains a small amount of vitamin A too.
Yams are also rich in potassium. Potassium serves as an electrolyte of some sort within the body, it works with sodium and calcium to regulate the body’s water balance. It also helps to regulate blood pressure, so it is indeed an important mineral.
Yam Curry Recipe
This creamy yam curry is packed full of nutritious goodness and flavour. It is delicious on its own, which is how I would eat it, but can also be served with flat bread or rice, like most curries.
To prepare the yam; cut the yam into slices, peel off the skin; then wash. You must be careful not get raw yam on the skin because the saponins present in the yam can cause itching.
Finally, remember that yam undergoes enzymatic browning when exposed to oxygen; same as fruits like apples. You can stop the discoloration by placing the cut yam in a bowl of water.
- Carefully use a knife to cut the yam slices, and remove the skin. Wash and cut into cubes.
- Heat up the oil in a pan.
- Add the onions and allow to cook until it becomes translucent.
- Add the garlic and allow to cook for 30 seconds.
- Pour in the garam masala, coriander, ginger and chilli.
- Allow to cook for 1 minute, while stirring continuously.
- Pour in the yam and chickpeas, while still stirring.
- Add the chopped tomatoes followed by water and salt.
- Stir the content of the pan, cover with a lid and allow to cook for 15 mins.
- Stir in the spinach and remove from heat.
Other dishes to try...