Every now and then I hear this guy singing a cool little tune at night. No music, just him singing a melody. I asked my fiancee what it is and she told me it’s a truck that sells ishiyaki imo (sweet potatoes). How awesome is that? I would never think “Hey, I could really go for a sweet potato” … until NOW! For a while I’ve been on a mission: run like an Olympic sprinter, catch this guy, enjoy the full ‘Japanese sweet potato out of a truck’ experience. The result? I’ve eaten one of these once, and I’ve seen the truck twice, and I have a picture!
What does Ishiyaki Imo mean? I asked this very same question and here’s the answer broken down. Ishi = stone, Yaki = grilled, Imo = sweet potato.
My Imagination: Now here’s what I was thinking about this truck before I saw it. I figured it was a pickup truck, some guy that cooks them on the back of his truck, and he sings his song out of a megaphone, he’s a happy guy that just loves giving out sweet potatoes late at night and apparently the job is fun and exciting. He drives fast because he wants to cover the entire city.
The Reality: Not quite what I was thinking. From my experience, an older guy drives either a truck or a van. He’s not singing, he’s playing a recording over a megaphone and this explaines why the song is perfect every time he drives by my place. He does drive slow, which means I’m just not running fast enough (time to hit the gym?). He has cooking gear on his truck but when I went all of the potatoes were ready to go. I spent 400 Yen ($3.75 at the time) for a big hot potato. And big as in huge, it looked like they gave me the biggest one in the sweet potato field. Good thing I was hungry!
The potato was hot and it I enjoyed it. Just eating a hot sweet potato is quite different from The Outback Steakhouse version back in the U.S. which is smothered in butter and cinnamon and maybe some sugar.
Here are a picture from the truck.
Here’s an Ishiyaki-Imo old school setup which I’ve never seen in person (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Here’s a YouTube video I found. The song doesn’t have as nice of a melody as the truck Fukuoka, the truck is slow and not busy, but it’s cool to check out.