Wednesday, 15 September 2010

oka yams... love at first bite

I was at Prahran Market last Saturday when some oddly-shaped, brightly coloured curiosities caught my eye at the M J Mow Gourmet Potatoes stall. 

NZ oka yams

I thought they were some unusual variety of ginger at first. Then I read the sign - they were oka yams from New Zealand (also spelt oca yams). There were also printouts of a recipe for those who wanted ideas on making a meal with them. I had a chat with the stallholder, Michael, and he gave me more tips on how to cook these oka yams. He described the flavour as nutty, and said that if I didn't have an oven as required in the recipe printout, I could slice them up and sauté them, which was good to know as I only have access to a working oven on certain nights.

They were $15/kg and I bought 200 grams to try. After mulling over it for a couple of days, I decided to cook them with the oven method, and came up with a recipe that took some ideas from the printout while also incorporating some personal preferences.

some of the washed ingredients, ready to prepare for baking

This is what I ended up using, and it makes just one serving...

- 200g NZ oka yams, ends trimmed
- 1 large banana chilli pepper, chopped (or any pepper)
- 1 tangelo (oranges, mandarins etc will do too)
- 1 large clove elephant garlic, chopped (or regular garlic)
- 1 handful celery leaves, chopped (you can use your favourite herbs as well)
- 1 knob butter
- 1 dollop Greek yoghurt
- 1 heaping tablespoon almond flakes, toasted
- salt and pepper to taste

As you can probably tell by now, I am pretty liberal/flexible about ingredients and measurements, so just take the above as a loose guide, and feel free to substitute the ingredients with similar items. I do recommend you at least double the recipe if you make it, and especially if you're sharing with someone, as I was lamenting that I didn't have enough after the first bite.

First, I threw the yams, chilli, garlic and half the celery leaves into a baking dish, then coated them all thoroughly with butter. Then I cut up the tangelo and squeezed the juice over all the ingredients in the baking dish, reserving one generous wedge for more drizzling later. Now it's ready to go into the oven for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, you can toast the almond flakes either in a pan or in the oven until fragrant and golden brown.

oka yams and friends ready to go into the oven

After 20 minutes, I took the baking dish out of the oven and the yams were soft and perfect, so I season them with salt, pepper, the juice of the remaining tangelo wedge, yoghurt, the remaining celery leaves, and the toasted almond flakes.

oka yams ready to serve

Mix it all up, and dig in...

oka yams ready to eat

I really liked this, and I'm already thinking about buying ocas again. They had a nutty flavour as was mentioned, and they were really tasty. I think I did them justice with my dish, too, if I do say so myself. After some of my recent cooking attempts, which could've gone better, I feel some pride and joy again.


  1. Pretty!!! Very creative of you to serve it up with fruit and almonds.

  2. Thank you! I actually got the ideas from the guy selling the ocas, but yes they do go well together!

  3. New to this oka yams but I am ok to try if I see them.

  4. oooo looking good!!! interesting way to prepare :D

  5. There are Oka Yams grown here in Australia


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