Okinawan Sweet Potato Manju

Manju has been a favorite festival treat in Japan and Okinawa for centuries. The first version of these stuffed buns came from China in 1341 (yep, almost 700 years ago!), and they’ve been a hit ever since!

In mainland Japan, steamed manju filled with azuki paste is a classic favorite, but that’s far from the only variety available. Matcha is a popular addition to this treat, and you can fill them with all kinds of jams or creams. There are even translucent versions called mizu manju (or “water manju”) that are made from an arrowroot starch dough.

One style that has especially become popular in Hawaii is the baked Okinawan sweet potato manju. Here, flaky pastry dough is wrapped around a vibrant purple filling with a subtly sweet, earthy taste. This treat is basically a bite-size Okinawan sweet potato pie! These are best served warm, but they keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

…Of course, that is if they last that long. 😉


Okinawan Sweet Potato Manju

Filling:

  • 2 8-oz Okinawan purple sweet potatoes
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 TBSP brown sugar

Crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, frozen and grated
  • 6 TBSP milk
  • 4 TBSP cold water
  • 1 TBSP heavy cream

Put the sweet potatoes in a large saucepan, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook for 30-45 minutes, until the potatoes can easily be pierced by a fork. Remove from the water, then remove the peels and mash the potatoes together with the milk, butter, salt, and 3 TBSP brown sugar. Taste; if needed, add another tablespoon of brown sugar to the filling. Let cool.

To make the crust, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer on low speed to incorporate the butter, and slowly add in the milk and water. (Note: you might not need all the water. Only add enough to form a cohesive dough.) Gently knead the ingredients together to make a dough, then refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 400F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop the pastry dough into 1 1/2-TBSP balls, then flatten them into thin disks. Scoop a 2-tsp ball of the sweet potato mixture, and place it in the middle of the disk. Roll the dough around the sweet potato filling, and slightly flatten it. Brush with a thin layer of heavy cream, then bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes about 20.

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