Street foods are very popular in the Philippines. They’re either sweet or savory and commonly skewered. Eating food on a stick makes the experience much more appealing aside from its obvious portability. And the best part, it’s cheap eats!
In the Philippines, camote cue is usually sold in make-shift stalls near public markets, schools or places that have a lot of foot traffic. Banana Cue (Caramelized Bananas) is also seen alongside it because the short list of ingredients (aside from the main component) needed and its process are pretty much the same.
There are quite a few kinds of sweet potatoes sold in supermarkets near our area but not all of them do well in this recipe. Some get mushy too quickly even before the sugar has the chance to caramelize. The varieties I tried that work best for this recipe are the Japanese (also known as Oriental) and the Korean sweet potato (my personal favorite but pricier). These three all look like the ones common in the Philippines…. a reddish-purple exterior with an almost white interior that turns yellow when cooked.
Japanese sweet potatoes are sold packed in three-pound bags at Costco. These are the ones I usually use because of its availability and much cheaper than the Korean “kamote”.
Tips for a well-coated Camote Cue:
- Make sure there’s enough oil to cover the sugar. This helps to evenly melt the sugar and prevent those sugary bits.
- Once the sugar is added, guide it so it stays under the sweet potatoes. This will ensure it caramelizes at the same time. You may have to gently turn the camote once after you add the sugar if it landed on top of the camote.
- Do not stir until the sugar is fully caramelized so it coats and sticks to the potatoes once you’re ready to stir.
Camote Cue (Caramelized Sweet Potato)
- 2 pounds Japanese sweet potatoes about 3 medium* see Notes
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar packed
- Canola oil for frying
- Sesame seeds optional
- Bamboo/barbecue sticks for serving
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch discs. Pour about an inch of oil in a wok and turn the heat on medium.
- Once the oil is hot, gently add the potato slices. Cook for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. You’ll know you’re ready for the next step when the camote starts turning yellow.
- Next, add the brown sugar by pushing some of the potatoes to the side so the sugar goes at the bottom. Let it cook ( do not stir yet ) until the sugar is starting to caramelize, about 2 to 4 minutes. Make sure the sugar is submerged in the oil and preferably under the potatoes to help it caramelize faster.
- Once the sugar is no longer grainy and starts to coat the sweet potatoes, start mixing. Continue mixing until each piece is completely covered with the caramel and the desired doneness is reached. It can take between 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the color you prefer. Sprinkle sesame seeds (if using) during the last minute of cooking. Be gentle when mixing, to keep the sweet potatoes’ shape intact.
- Thread on skewers and serve.