Sunday, June 30, 2013

on the grill

A few years back, my man and I moved ourselves to the city of Qingdao in eastern China to teach in an international school. I taught first grade which was a bit of a stretch for me, having worked mostly with upper elementary students, but it certainly offered ample opportunities for growth! I had a smallish class with students from all over the world. When it was someone's birthday, we would sing to them in at least five different languages.

When we weren't at school, we spent our time exploring both near and far from our apartment. We found peaceful temples with gardens that allowed us to reconnect with nature and find a respite from city life. We took the 45 minute bus ride to the old part of the city to soak in the old architecture and markets, and to sample street food. Weirdly, Qingdao didn't have a lot of street food, but in the old city we found more - roasted chestnuts, grilled corn on the cob, tons of barbecued meats (including squid!), steamed buns, and our favorite, roasted sweet potatoes. 

Cooked in metal drums, they may not appear to be the most appetizing treat, but trust me, they are delicious and comforting and nourishing to the soul. Handed to you wrapped simply in a piece of paper, they come completely unadorned. The reason: they are perfect on their own. The skin is crisp and charred in places, and when you break it open, the inside is steaming and fragrant. Soft, sweet and rich, eating a roasted sweet potato will warm you even on the coldest of days in China. 

When we moved back home we would sometimes reminisce about those tubers, wishing we could walk around the corner and buy one like we used to. That's when we came up with the idea of grilling them. To save time and fuel, we cut our sweet potatoes into long thick wedges, brushed them lightly with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper, and threw them on the grill. They took a bit of time to cook through and attain that super soft goodness, but with patience and a few turns to evenly cook all sides, we had ourselves a fine approximation of those street snacks we loved.

Now we eat grilled sweet potatoes year round. I learned that in China they are considered a longevity food, and being nutrient rich, perhaps they are. The way I see it, if they do help me to live a longer life, that's just more time to enjoy grilled sweet potatoes. What are your favorite things to grill?


  1. Favorite things to grill? Hmmmm....

    sliced beets
    marinated tofu
    onion wedges

    Your sweet potato post is reminding me of snacking on those wonderful earthy tubers when I lived in Taiwan. As soon as I clued into what the venders standing behind their large smoking metal drums were selling, I became a regular customer. Most of the ones I ate in Taichung city were yellow inside, but on a trip to the south end of the island near the town of Kenting, I was surprised to sink my teeth into one that was purple on the inside! Delicious.

    1. Purple sweet potatoes?! That would take my love of them to another level...

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