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Spike your Thanksgiving sweet potatoes with Korean flavors

Each November in South Korea, the streets fill with toasty aromas of roasted sweet potato as they are cooked outside over barrel drums full of glowing coals.
This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for sweet potato brown rice with soy and scallions. (Milk Street via AP)

Each November in South Korea, the streets fill with toasty aromas of roasted sweet potato as they are cooked outside over barrel drums full of glowing coals. Meanwhile, home cooks take advantage of the season to feature the tubers in a variety of satisfying dishes.

One such dish, goguma-bap, would make for an interesting Thanksgiving side with very little effort. It marries the sweet potatoes with short grain rice and a sweet-spicy soy-based dressing for a hearty vegetarian offering. After the potatoes are peeled and cubed, they are steamed with the rice and seasoned at the table with soy sauce and chives. The result is a dish with pure sweet-potato flavor accented by fresh notes of allium and nutty sesame seeds.

It’s also a perfect weeknight dinner. In the version from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy meals, we opt to season the sweet potatoes with just a little of this sauce before cooking to make them especially flavorful. And though we prefer the nuttiness of short-grain brown rice for added complexity, the dish requires only 10 minutes of active work.

Pungent, garlicky Chinese chives resemble thick blades of grass; if you can get them from your local Asian supermarket, use them in place of the scallions. The Korean red pepper commonly used in this dish is called gochugaru, but regular red pepper flakes work perfectly well.

Make sure to not cut the sweet potatoes too large or they will not cook in the same time as the rice. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your saucepan as the dish steams; if you see large amounts of steam coming from the lid, quickly uncover to allow the built-up steam to escape, then recover, reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking.

Sweet Potato Brown Rice with Soy and Scallions

Start to finish: 50 minutes (10 minutes active)

Servings: 4

1 cup short-grain brown rice, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions OR Chinese chives

⅓ cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

1 medium garlic clove, finely grated

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) OR red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon honey OR white sugar

1 pound orange-flesh sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 3 cups)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon white OR black sesame seeds OR a combination, toasted

In a large saucepan, combine the rice and 1¾ cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium, then reduce to low, cover and cook without stirring for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the scallions, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper flakes and honey. In a medium bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the soy mixture and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

After the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, uncover the pot, scatter the sweet potato mixture over the surface of the rice (without disturbing the grains) and re-cover. Cook over low until both the sweet potatoes and rice are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Gently fluff with a fork, trying not to break up the potatoes. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve with the remaining soy sauce mixture for drizzling.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at

Christopher Kimball, The Associated Press