Life Life

04/12/2019 - 08:23

Grilled sweet potato with scallion oil

A piece of hot and juicy grilled sweet potato, dipped in scallion oil or shallot oil is so delicious; sweet, fatty and aromatic combined.

Attractive grilled sweet potato with scallion oil

“Why not boiling it? Why bothering grilling sweet potato until brown, beating it flat, then eating it with scallion oil? Grilled sweet potato is considered food for rainy days, but chances are the rain has already stopped when the food is ready,” complained my friend while the shop owner was busy grilling sweet potatoes. 

Rounded sweet potatoes, each as big as a fist, were being grilled with care on the charcoal fire. Her old hands kept fanning and turning them. When the skin of sweet potatoes got burnt, one could feel the aroma and the sweet smell pervading the shop.

It was still pouring with rain outside. Her tiny shop on the roadside looked rickety and sad in the rain. 

Once on such a rainy day, I happened to meet again the dish that I had eaten in my childhood. Since the day my family moved to town, grilled sweet potato with scallion oil has been left behind. But the image of the food is always in my mind.

When I was small, I liked best my mom’s grilled sweet potato with scallion oil. We were poor at the time; rice was often mixed with sweet potato and cassava. My mom’s grilled sweet potato thus became the most expected dish.

I remember the drizzling days. The small house surrounded by the garden was even quieter when people had gone to work in the fields. After the nap, my sister and I ran to the kitchen cupboard looking for snacks. 

Snacks for the afternoon was sometimes just some rice left over from lunch, eaten with braised fish. But what I liked best was grilled sweet potato and the bowl of scallion oil which mom had made for us. 

Mom often made grilled sweet potato after she had finished with lunch. At that time, the fire was nearly extinguished because the firewood had been taken of for future use.

Mom picked up some sweet potatoes from the pile in the kitchen corner and put them under the charcoal and covered them with ash. The left heat slowly cooked the potatoes. Mom said grilling sweet potatoes on a big fire would make them smell of smoke and lose its original pure flavor.

The snack was so delicious thanks to the sauce made from fat and scallion. At the time, we cooked with pork fat only. Mom poured some fat into a hot pan, then added sliced shallot and waited until it turned brown.

Sometimes she went to the market early in the morning and managed to fetch some spring onion. She cut spring onion into tiny pieces, then fried them with fat. A piece of smoky juicy grilled sweet potato, dipped in scallion oil is so delicious.

Seeing again the grilled sweet potato with scallion oil sold by the old woman on the roadside, I missed my mom so badly. How I miss her diligently grilling sweet potatoes on the fire, and those memories with her!

Story and photo: Ha Le