Serves 4 as a side dish; 2 as a main dish
20 minutes prep, 20 minutes cooking, 40 minutes total
The yams are best at room temperature and improve with several days in the refrigerator.

Yams and sweet potatoes are so often baked we forget how fast they cook when sliced thin and boiled. Sturdy, distinctive and gorgeous, they can go far beyond the marshmallow and cinnamon treatment.

Make no mistake: this is a creation for ginger and chile lovers. Slices of green chile, golden sticks of fried ginger, and bronzed shallots spooned over yams the color of a sunset turn out a movie star of a dish.  

Cook to Cook: Cutting the ginger into paper-thin matchsticks may seem fussy, but there is method to what seems to be madness. That shape changes how you taste the ginger in this dish. Crushed or chopped ginger would taste different -- an interesting thing to remember when you see very specific instructions like these in Chinese recipes. There's always a reason. 

  • 4 quarts salted water in a 6-quart pot
  • 2 large yams (about 1-3/4 pounds), peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-rounds
  • Cold-pressed vegetable oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into paper-thin matchsticks
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin 
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced very thin (for milder flavor, seed the chile)
  • 2 whole scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 large shallots, thin sliced   
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 light-packed cup fresh Thai, Holy or regular fresh basil leaves, coarse chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
1. Have the salted water boiling. 

2. Once bubbling fiercely, drop in the yams and cook them at a hard bubble 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a colander and turn into a serving dish. Set the pot back on the stove.

3. Generously film the pot with the oil. Set over medium high and add the ginger, garlic, jalapeño, scallions, shallots, and generous sprinklings of salt and pepper. Sauté 2 minutes, stirring often. Cover the pot tightly, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook 5 to 8 minutes, or until the ginger has softened.

4. Stir in the basil and cook, uncovered, no more than 30 seconds. You want it to release its fragrance, soften a little, but still stay bright green. Spoon the curry sauce over the yams. Taste them for seasoning, then squeeze the lime juice over the finished dish and serve.

From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter, 2008.