Let me start by telling you that these Sweet Potato Chips are deep fried and not baked. We, in India, do like our deep fried crunchy snacks. We rarely bake our savoury snacks. The main reason for this is that western style baking was never a traditional Indian cooking technique. The concept of baking in an oven came to India with the Tandoori cooking from Persia. Eventually, European colonization and Christianity brought baking into certain regional Indian cuisines.
If you know Kerala, then you know that they make the best plantain chips (or crisps if that’s what you call them) in the world here. That has extended to different kinds of chips over time. Even the kinds of plantain chips made in Kerala is quite varied these days.
Life during 2020 has been quite unexpected in many ways, some of them good from my perspective. My daughter and some of her cousins ended up being at home because of travel and work restrictions. A couple of months back, a couple of her cousins had to step out and came across a local bakery offering an interesting variety of chips. They came home with paper bags of freshly made plantain, sweet potato, jackfruit, tapioca/ cassava and elephant yam chips. All of them were really good and the sweet potato chips in particular were worth an extra mention.
That got me thinking of making them at home. I had a couple of sweet potatoes on hand and they had just started sprouting. The sprouting parts were sliced off and planted in a pot. I don’t know if I will get any sweet potatoes eventually but the leaves are looking very pretty. It’s no rocket science to deep fry root vegetables to make chips. However it helps to pay a little attention to detail. Slicing them uniformly thin makes a huge difference. Use a mandolin or slicer if you have one as it is so much easier, if you want round chips. I found it easier the cut the sweet potatoes into three or four lengthwise. Then I used a potato peeler to cut long and thin slices. This looked much like the chips that the kids brought home.
It is important to make sure the oil is just right and not too hot. Use an oil that has no noticeable flavour though coconut oil does make the best Sweet Potato Chips. You will find that I salt these chips by adding salt water to the hot oil. While this may sound dangerous, and it can be if not careful, this is how chips are salted in Kerala. Adding the salt to the fried chips does not give quite the same taste or texture.
The trick is to start with a largish wok or pot that is only half filled with oil. Once the oil is hot enough for frying, drop the sweet potato slices in. Once the chips have crisped up, turn the heat down completely. Immediately, add a couple of teaspoons of the salted water. Stand away from the wok while doing this. Since the sweet potato slices would have brought down the oil temperature a bit, the water should not cause the oil to spit too much.
Sweet Potato Chips
- 1/2 kg sweet potatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- Oil for deep frying
- Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes clean. Peel them and slice them into evenly thin rounds using a mandolin or knife. Ideally you do not want very large rounds. Otherwise cut the sweet potatoes into three or four pieces lengthwise. Then use a potato peeler to cut long and thin slices, like I did. Make sure the slices are dry. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel, if necessary.
- Dissolve the salt in the water and keep aside.
- Heat a largish wok or pot half filled with oil (or coconut oil) over a medium to hot flame. When the oil seems hot enough (not smoking hot) drop a sweet potato slice in it. If it bubbles vigorously and comes up, the oil is ready for frying.
- Carefully, drop a small batch of sliced sweet potatoes into the oil. Immediately add a couple of teaspoons of the salted water. Stand away from the wok while doing this. Since the sweet potato slices would have brought down the oil temperature a bit, the water should not cause the oil to spit too much.
- Flip the chips every minute or so, until the bubbling dies down significantly. The chips should turn crisp up with the edges curling a bit, turn golden brown, and make a sound as they rub against each other.
- Remove the chips from the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Once they cool transfer to an airtight container. Let the oil come back to desired temperature and similarly fry the remaining sweet potato slices.