Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Photos by Shoji Kudaka ()

Umukuji tempura, or umukuji andagi, is an Okinawan snack food commonly sold at local supermarkets. Cooked with imokuzu (potato starch) and beniimo (purple or reddish-violet sweet potato), its soft, chewy texture and subtle sweetness are a delight to the taste buds. Plus, its purple color is very pleasing to look at. If you have tried “beniimo tarte” a popular snack sold at local souvenir shops, you would know the color that I am talking about.

Though you can get umukuji tempura at your local market, nothing beats a fresh batch made at home.

Just recently, I had a chance to try cooking this Okinawan snack on my own. The recipe I found on the web was simple and didn’t take a lot of ingredients. However, it required sweet potatoes to be steamed and pureed, which could be time-consuming. So, instead, I chose to cut corners by microwaving and mushing them in a bowl. Skipping the process probably cost me some smoothness in the tempura, but most of the softness, chewiness and sweetness was still there in the final product. The fresh umukuji tempura put me in the mood for a snack time with a cup of coffee.

Ingredients (makes about 12 pieces)

  • Beniimo (purple sweet potato) 200g

  • Imokuzu (potato starch) 133cc

  • Water 100ml

  • Sugar 15cc

  • Salt 2.5cc

  • Oil (reasonable amount)


Rinse the sweet potatoes with water. Wrap them in Saran wrap and microwave them for 5 minutes or so.

Once soft enough to skewer through, peel them.

(The potato gets really hot. So, I used chopsticks and a spoon for this step.)

Mash the potatoes in a bowl and mix them with sugar and salt.

In another bowl, mix potato starch and water. While stirring the mixture, add it to the potatoes little by little.

(The sweet potato should be as soft or hard as an earlobe)

Heat oil to 170 degrees Celsius (338 degrees Fahrenheit) in a pan. Mold the dough into small pieces (about the size of a thumb) and fry in batches.

Remove from oil as soon as the surface crisps.

You can place on a napkin-lined plate to strain extra oil.

Serve immediately, but be careful in case it is still too hot from the frying.

Pairs well with coffee. いただきます(Bon appetite)!

Tip: Normally, umukuji tempura is not served with any dipping sauce. However, its light flavor might go well with some butter or whip cream.

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