I didn’t even know the purple potato existed until I came to China. It is a humble food, often available as a street food cooked in a make-shift tandoori oven. I see it everywhere here, steamed in large pots in fruit shops, juiced in fresh raw juice bars, and it is available to buy all year round in every supermarket I have been to here.
Growing up, my mother used to make potatoes in this way: sliced length-ways, scored and seasoned with plenty of ground black pepper. I do the same now with the purple potato, it still reminds me of home even though it looks different. They cook a lot quicker than the standard white potato, but a little slower that the sweet potato. They come in a variety of sizes, the smaller ones (similar in size to new potatoes) are sweeter and softer. Purple potatoes feature in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) healing foods recipes, as they are believed to reduce both high blood pressure and high-blood sugar, mostly because of their high concentrations of anti-oxidants (particularly anthocyanin). The purple potato (quite like the yam, taro, lotus root and sweet potato) is a healthier and more nutritious potato option, compared with the standard white potato we commonly eat in the West. It’s flour may also be used for making wheat-free and gluten-free desserts.
The purple potato is originally native to Peru and Bolivia (also known as Purple Viking or Purple Peruvian potato), it is not to be confused with the purple skinned sweet potato variety or the russet potato (with the dark red skin). These varieties are often white or grey in the centre and have a purple outer-layer. The variety now abundant in China is sweeter, very purple and turns a blueish colour when steamed. The most common variety, though there are many, it is probably the Purple Majesty.
These ones go down pretty well. Serves 2 as a side dish.
Medium-sized purple potatoes, 500g+
Extra-virgin coconut oil, 3-4 tbsp
Garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped, 5-6
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper (and plenty of it), to taste
Any other seasoning of your choice*, to taste
- It depends on the season, but true to my Italian roots, I usually like this dish flavoured with sprigs of fresh rosemary.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Wash the purple potatoes and slice length-ways.
3. Score the potato halves in a kind of cross-hatch (pictured above).
4. Oil and season the baking tray with sea salt and ground black pepper.
5. Place the purple potatoes face upwards and season the tops with more sea salt, ground black pepper and garlic (optional).
6. Roast until crispy and golden for between 15 and 20 minutes.